Community policing, communication, training and transparency were among the issues officials stressed during a panel discussion at Wittenberg University on Monday.
But attorneys Michael Wright and Richard Schulte, who represent the family of a 22-year-old man killed by police at the Beavercreek Walmart, said police do make bad decisions, and questioned why transparency doesn’t apply to the public.
Wright and Schulte were referring Attorney General Mike DeWine’s refusal to release the Walmart surveillance video of shopper John Crawford III being shot inside the store on Aug. 5.
“Why is there a different standard of transparency for the police officers in this case?” Schulte asked. “I can tell you if an individual black man was being prosecuted in this case, that video would be all over the place.”
Schulte and Wright were among a panel of nine people who spoke at Wittenberg University’s Bayley Auditorium, Barbara Deer Kuss Science Center as part of a more than two hour discussion on Race, Rights and Law Enforcement.
Clark County Prosecutor Andy Wilson, Springfield Police Chief Stephen Moody, Clark County Sheriff Gene Kelly, Yellow Springs Police Chief Anthony Pettiford and Mayor Warren Copeland were also on the panel.
The forum was held more than a month after Crawford was killed while carrying a bb gun that he had picked up from a shelf inside Walmart.
Wright and Schulte said Crawford was not waving the gun around at women and children, as a 9-1-1 caller told a dispatcher.
“Look at Beavercreek. Sometimes you get it wrong. Sometimes you get it completely wrong, and in this situation there was no communication and this kid ended up dead,” Wright said. “… The Ohio Attorney General, all the powers that be, where’s the communication? They get it wrong and they’re not talking and they’re continuing to hurt this family. There has been no justice at all for this kid.”
Local law enforcement officials said they could not comment on the specifics of the Beavercreek case or the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. because they are not involved those investigations.
But Wilson said that the use of deadly force by police is rare.
“The media wants you to believe that officers are cowboys; that they use force and ask questions later,” Wilson said.
He said officers de-escalate hostile situations daily, but the media perception indicates otherwise.
Moody said he encourages students to ride along with police. He also said when police respond to an incident, especially a murder, transparency is key.
“The only way to have transparency is through open, honest dialog,” Moody said.
He said he and others have relationships with the local Peace Keepers, an anti-violence organization, and reaches out to the victims families.
Pettiford admits that law enforcement sometimes does not release certain information to the public to protect an investigation “whether law enforcement is in the wrong or right.”
However, Copeland said elected officials in Ferguson, for example, dropped the ball.
“I found it amazing that the elected officials in Ferguson were no where to be seen … I would hope that if a situation like what happened in Ferguson would happen … I would have to guts to communicate with the community. I don’t think the elected officials in Ferguson have done their job.”
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