Dayton police reform groups finish up. What’s next?

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Dayton police reform groups meet for the last time. But officials say the work is far from finished.

Dayton’s police reform committees are wrapping up after more than eight months and more than 130 recommendations meant to change and improve oversight, training, recruitment and other department practices and policies.

Dayton leaders and people involved say the reform work is far from finished. Next steps include creating a short-term implementation committee and figuring out a longer-term accountability framework.

Some committee members and co-leaders say their recommendations should significantly improve policing and community-police relations in Dayton.

“I am proud of the work we did to provide the Dayton City Commission with community-driven and community-focused recommendations which prioritize safety and transparency,” said Brandon McClain, co-chair of the oversight working group.

But Julio Mateo, a member of the training reform group and Dayton’s Community Police Council, said he fears the city could disregard key parts of some proposals that seek to create independent oversight.

“My primary issues are with the implementation of the oversight pieces, especially the independent auditor,” he said.

Dayton police trail and monitor a protest in the Oregon District in mid-March. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF
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Dayton police trail and monitor a protest in the Oregon District in mid-March. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton’s five police reform committees started meeting last summer to review police policies and practices and develop recommendations focused on use of force, oversight, training, engagement, and training and promotion.

The Dayton City Commission created the working groups in response to the social justice protests downtown following the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

More than 100 people agreed to take part in the process, including elected leaders, police officers, community activists, defense attorneys and members of the Community Police Council.

Three of the reform groups met for the last time last month, and two others expect to have their final meeting today.

As of Wednesday, the reform committees have approved 135 recommendations ― some containing many action items and requests.

Police responded to a single-vehicle crash at North Gettysberg Avenue and Glenbrook Drive on Wednesday.
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Police responded to a single-vehicle crash at North Gettysberg Avenue and Glenbrook Drive on Wednesday.

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Credit:

About 83 recommendations have been accepted by the Dayton City Commission, and 45 are still within a 30-day window for commissioners to consider and respond to them, the mayor’s office said.

A couple of recommendations were rejected for legal reasons, and commissioners claim they needed more time to consider a few other proposals.

In response to many recommendations, commissioners directed the city manager to work with police and other departments on potential implementation.

The mayor’s office said some recommendations are in the process of being implemented, including equipping officers with body cameras, creating a new recruitment unit and putting a charter change proposal on the ballot in support of new hiring rules.

Some of the more ambitious and “bigger picture” recommendations could take years to complete.

This includes a recommendation for an alternative response model that sends nonpolice specialists to certain types of calls involving people struggling with mental illness or other crises.

Torey Hollingsworth, senior policy aide to Mayor Nan Whaley, has met with the five reform groups to outline proposed next steps. A short-term implementation committee will be created that consists of three representatives from each of the police reform working groups, she said.

Dayton police Sgt. Gordon Cairns, supervisor of the department's traffic services unit, urges people to make plans for safe travel during the Super Bowl weekend. There will be extra officers on patrol looking to intercept impaired drivers, he said. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF
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Dayton police Sgt. Gordon Cairns, supervisor of the department's traffic services unit, urges people to make plans for safe travel during the Super Bowl weekend. There will be extra officers on patrol looking to intercept impaired drivers, he said. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

The new committee, she said, will receive progress updates from city staff about implementation efforts to ensure they align with the reform working groups’ intentions.

“If something isn’t being interpreted in the way the group intended, this committee is going to give feedback to staff to make sure there is an opportunity to course-correct,” she said.

The group also will provide input to help develop a “long-term accountability structure” to keep the community engaged and involved in reviewing and deciding police policies and building relationships, Hollingsworth said. A finalized proposal for a long-term accountability plan likely will be unveiled at a city commission work session this spring.

The proposed long-term plan includes new committees focused on use of force, recruitment, community engagement, training, policy and a new community appeals board.

Other recommendations from the reform committees include a new independent accountability auditor, a police complaint intake position and a low-level discipline program where officers can self-report minor violations.

The proposed next steps should ensure the police reform groups’ recommendations are prioritized, said McClain, with the oversight committee.

The implementation plan will promote transparency and accountability while also strengthening the relationship between police and the community, he said.

But Mateo said he believes the city has ignored crucial parts of the oversight committee’s recommendations to create an independent accountability auditor and complaint intake position.

Mateo said the city proposes to make these new positions answer to the city manager, which he says is problematic and means they are not independent. The city should follow the recommendations as proposed, he said, and the complaint intake position and auditor should be under the Human Relations Council to be separate from city administration.

Dayton City Commissioner Matt Joseph, co-lead of the oversight committee, said his committee had “zero” concerns about the complaint intake position’s proposed place in the organization ― possibly under the mediation center, which answers to the city manager.

Joseph said the position is not at real risk of corruption or undue influence, because the job primarily will involve accepting complaints, helping people go through the process and providing them with updates.

A SWAT standoff on East Third Street in Dayton ended after nearly seven hours with a man being taken into police custody. No injuries were reported during the standoff. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
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A SWAT standoff on East Third Street in Dayton ended after nearly seven hours with a man being taken into police custody. No injuries were reported during the standoff. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Joseph said the independent auditor might be under both the city commission and the city manager to ensure he or she has access to all the necessary information.

“If it was city commission-side employee solely, structurally the city commission cannot tell a city manager-side employee what to do,” he said. “It’s not the way they’re built.”

He said his group wants the new auditor to be independent and effective, and they are confident that will happen.

Will Smith, who served as a consultant or “bridge” between the reform groups, said the process was not easy and it took a great deal of time, but it brought together people who traditionally haven’t been at the table.

He said there were disagreements and “heavy” conversations, but participants spoke freely and shared different perspectives. Smith believes more community voices can join in this work moving forward and he’s eager to see the implementation and impact of the reform groups’ work.