Dayton police use of force rare, more likely to injure white residents

Dayton police officers rarely use force, but residents and officers often end up injured when they do, according to new research.

Black residents are more likely to be involved in use-of-force incidents in the city than white citizens, according to the analysis of Dayton police data by Richard Stock.

However, white people are more likely to be injured by police during the encounters, the research shows.

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The vast majority of thousands of contacts that Dayton police officers have with citizens every year are peaceful, Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl told the Dayton Daily News.

Based on arrests, black people are 8 percent more likely to be involved in a use-of-force incident in Dayton than their white counterparts — which is a smaller discrepancy than some people would think, officials say.

“Considering the community perception and historical context — which is really relevant in this — we were fairly surprised that it was only 8 percent,” said Jared Grandy, the Dayton Community-Police Relations coordinator.

Stock said the police department seems very serious about officers having to report these events, and they can face severe consequences if they don’t.

Citizens can trust their government to respond with appropriate thoroughness when they make complaints about use of force, Stock said.

“I’m concerned that they don’t believe that now, and I believe they’re wrong,” he said.

Between 2014 and 2017, there were 849 documented cases of use of force by Dayton police officers, according to Stock’s analysis for the Dayton Community-Police Council. Stock is the director of the Business Research Group at the University of Dayton.

In the three-year study period, nearly half of the use of force incidents occurred during arrests.

Other situations that resulted in police deploying force include responding to dispatch calls, disturbances and fights, traffic stops and field interviews.

Use of force is extremely rare, occurring in slightly more than 1 percent of Dayton police arrests, the research shows.

Use of force means compelling compliance or overcoming resistance to an officers' commands, and types include physical actions, chemical measures like pepper-spray and firing a service weapon, according to the Police Foundation.

Last month, Dayton police responded to a home on Darst Avenue in east Dayton after a crying and screaming woman made multiple calls to 911, a police report states.

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The woman told police her ex-boyfriend tried to get into her home and threatened to burn it down.

A man police questioned who met the description of the suspect took off running, leading to a foot chase, the report says.

The man was Tased after failing to comply with commands to stop and after jumping a fence, officers said.

The man, who surrendered, cut his right hand while jumping the fence and was taken to a local hospital to receive medical attention, the report states.

Injuries are common when police use force, though they tend to be minor, like scratches, bruises, sprains, strains and abrasions, police officials say.

Between 2014 and 2017, residents were injured in about two-thirds of the Dayton Police Department’s use-of-force events, the analysis found. Officers were injured in 10 percent of the encounters.

Stock’s analysis found that white citizens are more likely than black residents to be injured when Dayton police use force, regardless of why officers deployed force, such as citizens being combative, fleeing or non-compliant.

White people were injured in 75 percent of use-of-force events. Black people were injured in 60 percent of the cases, the data show.

Officers’ use of counterforce always carries an inherent risk of injury, but they are taught a variety of approaches and methods to try to prevent a situation from escalating to citizen aggression, said Chief Biehl.

They use verbal commands, “verbal judo” and tactical positioning, Biehl said. He also said injuries for both citizens and police officers have been substantially reduced due to the use of less lethal means, like Tasers and, to a lesser extent, pepper spray.

Officers’ use counterforce usually depends on the conduct of the citizen involved and not the context of the situation, Biehl said.

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“In essence, people’s behavior drives how we respond,” he said.

Black citizens

are 52 percent more likely to be involved in use of force in Dayton, based on their share of the city’s population, the analysis said. The city is about 40 percent black.

Biehl said comparing data with overall population is overly broad and can lead to incorrect interpretations.

According to Grandy, Dayton officers almost never use excessive force, and officers involved in 841 out of the 849 use-of-force cases were exonerated in the investigations, meaning a supervisor determined the use of force was within department policy.

Dayton leaders recently praised members of the Community-Police Council and police department for providing important transparency and working to educate the public about the complaint and review process.

“We have been able in this community to really make sure the community is at the same table with police,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley.

Complaints about officer conduct can be made by contacting the Professional Standards Bureau, either by phone, letter, e-mail or in person.

Information is available on the city website at: http://www.daytonohio.gov/272/Professional-Standards-Bureau.

The phone number is 937-333-1018. The office is at 371 W. Second Street  in Dayton.

Citizens also can contact the department by calling 937-333-COPS (333-2677) and ask to speak with a supervisor.

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