Montgomery County police departments work with NAACP on reforms

A police officer stands in front of a crowd at a protest for racial justice in Kettering last summer.
A police officer stands in front of a crowd at a protest for racial justice in Kettering last summer.

Since the murder of George Floyd last year in Minnesota, police departments in the Dayton region have worked on their own and with the Dayton Unit NAACP to update policies, institute new training and purchase body cameras to try to avoid or de-escalate conflicts between officers and citizens.

Derrick Foward, the president of the local NAACP, said the organization has worked toward police reform for more than a century, but Floyd’s death was an eye-opener to many that more still needs to be done.

“The world had an opportunity to see this ‘Emmett Till moment’, a black man being assassinated in public view, just as Emmett Till was, that now we captured the attention of the hearts of law enforcement officers who are about the right business of law enforcement,” Foward said.

As part of a series examining law enforcement reforms over the last year, this story examines changes that have been implemented by local police departments. Last week Dayton Daily News stories examined reforms undertaken by the Dayton police and revisited social justice protesters to ask about what still needs to be done.

Last June, the Dayton NAACP released an eight-point plan for law enforcement departments they say would improve police treatment of and relations with the Black community. The NAACP reached out to more than 20 area departments, mostly in Montgomery County, and heard back from the majority of them. They also reached out to local municipality organizations to promote the plan.

Foward said departments have been receptive of many of the eight points, including implementing body cameras and dash cameras in patrol cruisers and banning knee and chokeholds. He said more work needs to be done to implement citizen review boards that he says provide an independent perspective into complaints filed against police.

“I made a pledge to President Foward that we would do everything possible and we’ve been able to comply now with seven of the eight points,” said Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck. “The NAACP is a very important organization in Dayton and we just want the community to know that when they request something that we’re going to try to do everything we can to meet those requests.”

The only point the sheriff’s office has not complied with, Streck said, is the request to establish a citizen’s review board over the department, as that would require action by the state legislature.

Before the protest, teargas was deployed when people blocked an intersection,but by the end demonstrators and police  got down on one knee together as sign of solidarity. PHOTOS: Marshall Gorby, Jim Noelker
Before the protest, teargas was deployed when people blocked an intersection,but by the end demonstrators and police got down on one knee together as sign of solidarity. PHOTOS: Marshall Gorby, Jim Noelker

Working with police

Foward said he believes there are law enforcement officers who do a good job protecting the community but said it’s also up to them to speak out when they know they have bad actors in their ranks.

The NAACP came up with its strategy and began reaching out to the different policing agencies last year.

“The way we viewed it, sustained and robust public discourse and ongoing education are tools that will begin to dismantle systems that bred implicit biases, racial misconceptions, hatred and inequities,” Foward said.

“We asked the police departments to develop a concrete plan. How to build and sustain safety, employment opportunities and equity within and across communities,” he said.

One of the departments that have been in communication with the NAACP is Beavercreek. Chief Jeff Fiorita said they are committed to partnering with the community to further the department’s mission of fairness, integrity and loyalty.

“Since June 2020, we have been in communication with the Dayton Unit of the NAACP in their efforts to work with local law enforcement agencies,” the chief told the Dayton Daily News. “This communication was in response to their request to work in partnership as we all move forward regarding equity and justice.”

“Our agency welcomes any community partnership that furthers our Mission Statement of safeguarding lives and property while ensuring the rights of all people, and thereby enhancing the quality of life for our citizens,” he said.

ExploreA year after Dayton protests, reform efforts grab the spotlight

The Springboro police department was one of the agencies the NAACP reached out to who declined to work with them.

“(The NAACP’s plan) assumed a lot of things were already broken and that’s just not true,” said Springboro Police Chief Jeffrey Kruithoff.

The Springboro Police Department is already in compliance with many points of the plan, Kruithoff said.

The vast majority of police agencies responded. Reforms have been made in the last year at the urging of the NAACP and other civil rights groups and of departments’ own volition in the areas of body cameras, crisis intervention and duty to intervene. Police chiefs said their departments continue to struggle to recruit diverse officers, which is one of the moves the NAACP has called for. And outside of Dayton, no municipality has established a citizen’s review board to oversee the police, the first point in the NAACP’s eight-point plan.

Many departments had already banned the use of chokeholds except in situations that call for the use of lethal force.

Police try to get Huber Heights protesters to leave. BILL LACKEY\STAFF
Police try to get Huber Heights protesters to leave. BILL LACKEY\STAFF

Crisis intervention

Several departments have increased crisis intervention training so officers are better equipped to respond to the many calls involving a mental health crisis.

At least five departments — Dayton, Vandalia, Kettering, Butler Twp. and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office — have hired mental health professionals to respond with officers to some calls. The specialized teams have had success referring individuals to treatment services and avoiding unnecessary incarceration.

Duty to intervene

Local department chiefs said they have gone beyond the NAACP calls and emphasized to their staffs policies on the duty of officers to intervene if they see another officer acting inappropriately. Two of the three former Minneapolis police officers accused of aiding and abetting in the death of George Floyd were rookies — one of them had only been on the job four days — and the officer who killed Floyd, Derik Chauvin, had been on the force 19 years.

Departments, including Kettering and the sheriff’s office, have since made their duty to intervene policy clearer, making sure officers know that they must step in even if the other officer is a veteran, superior or member of another agency.

Springboro will roll out a new training called Active Bystandership for Law Enforcement (ABLE) to all its officers by next fall.

“The occupation has always had some tremendous peer pressure in it. Senior officers are very difficult to stand up against if you’re just a one-year rookie and the ABLE training gives them the skills and abilities to have techniques on how best to do that,” he said.

Diverse officers

Streck said the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office is “trying to do everything in (its) power” to recruit more diverse officers.

“We do everything from billboards to commercials to social media blasts … We have recruiters that that go out to different areas, we try to work with faith-based community,” he said.

The sheriff’s office has never come close to resembling the racial makeup of the county, Streck said. A Dayton Daily News survey of area law enforcement agencies last summer found that only two responding departments — Dayton and Trotwood — have minorities make up at least 10% of their sworn officers.

ExploreDayton police applicants don’t reflect city’s diversity
Englewood police Sgt. Mike Lang wears a WatchGuard body camera. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office received initial approval by a county board Wednesday to purchase 200 units of the same model. JIM NOELKER / STAFF
Englewood police Sgt. Mike Lang wears a WatchGuard body camera. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office received initial approval by a county board Wednesday to purchase 200 units of the same model. JIM NOELKER / STAFF

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Body cameras

One of the NAACP’s most measurable calls for action is the institution of body cameras. More than five agencies purchased body cameras or cruiser cameras in the last year, including Dayton, Montgomery County Sheriff’s, Kettering, Huber Heights and Trotwood. Many departments said they have been working on securing funds for them for a number of years. Streck said deputies have responded well to implementing body cameras.

ExploreDayton police, county deputies soon will wear body cams. Will they help?

Citizen review boards and working beyond police departments

Foward said that the NAACP has been predominately speaking with law enforcement because they are the ones with boots on the ground, but the mission is to reform the criminal justice system as a whole.

“You have prosecutors that are involved, you have judges that are involved, you have attorneys, it’s the system,” he said. “When you think about the first strategy implementing a citizen review board, you have to get officials involved in that. Somebody is going to have to propose it, which is typically city leadership.”

Citizen review boards are committees usually made up of residents who do not have connections to the police department and who review citizens’ complaints against officers. The City of Dayton has a citizen review board, Foward said, but many other agencies need them.

“Citizens review boards are something that we are going to continue to push for all agencies to have... because we know they work,” Foward said. “Because you don’t want the police to just be policing themselves without having an objective opinion by your citizens.”

An eight-point plan developed by the NAACP seeks to have local police agencies implement policies which it says would help de-escalate conflict in some situations between officers and citizens

  • Modifying and/or implementing a citizen’s review board with subpoena powers to investigate complaints made by the public regarding police officers.
  • Create a more transparent process around accountability of officers who violate citizens’ constitutional rights, police ethics and departmental policies and procedures by making the officers’ names and their disciplinary records available to the public.
  • Create a policy where officers who discharge their weapon and/or use excessive force on an unarmed person be suspended without pay pending an investigation. The officer’s name, policing history and additional information outlined in public records laws should be made public upon the disposition of the investigation and within a reasonable amount of time.
  • Ensure transparency, accountability and safety of communities by requiring front-facing cameras to be actively recording all on-duty police officers. The department should also ensure at least two cruiser cameras are utilized in every cruiser, with one facing toward the street and the other toward the person in custody.
  • Include an emphasis on mental health assessments, de-escalating conflicts and improving community relations in the core training of officers.
  • Ban the use of knee holds and chokeholds.
  • Actively vet applicants and recruit officers who reflect and proportionally represent the community they serve. Use psychological evaluations in the hiring of officers. The number of applicants for available positions should be hired with regards to diversity and inclusion.
  • Provide video of all fatal shootings and arrests, as well as incidents with alleged police brutality, in a reasonable amount of time.

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