Dayton’s community-police relations coordinator has resigned after growing frustrated with what he said is police leadership’s unwillingness to use community recommendations to reform department policies and culture.
The resignation comes at a time of growing unrest in cities across America ignited by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week. Floyd died while in police custody. Officer Derek Chauvin, who kneeled on Floyd's neck for nearly eight minutes, was later charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Jared Grandy, who worked as Dayton’s coordinator for more than three years, said the relationship between many black citizens and police in Dayton isn’t good and won’t get better until police leadership and Chief Richard Biehl take community input about reforms seriously
“When he’s on camera and speaking, he appears to be genuine, he appears to get it, he appears to be progressive,” Grandy said. “However, when it’s time to change the fundamental culture of the police department or it’s time to change policies, he’s never willing to implement it.”
Grandy said he believes the Dayton Police Department has a “warrior-like” culture and mentality that emphasizes taking down criminals instead of being a guardian of the people and protecting their rights.
Biehl disagreed with the description, saying Grandy’s three-year experience doesn’t compare to the decade-long relationship his department has with the Community Police Council.
Biehl said the Community Police Council has helped the police department develop or modify strategic plans, and agreed-upon initiatives were identified and outcomes were reported.
“I am also in discussion with the city manager and staff as well as with senior DPD leadership of opportunities to create substantive change in the relationship between the Dayton Police Department and our community members that will help increase transparency, trust, community engagement and community safety,” Biehl said.
Biehl said he rejects simple labels of police officers, because they have many roles including being problem-solvers, community-builders, social service coordinators, law-enforcers and much more.
“I reject any simplistic labeling of our role and anyone who has an understanding of the myriad of tasks that police officers perform would likely agree that this is so,” he said.
Grandy, 32, said on Friday he signed a voluntary separation plan agreement, which the city is offering employees as part of cost-cutting efforts to address revenue losses due the COVID-19 shut down. It would have let him work through July, but Grandy said he resigned on Saturday because he was disappointed with police officers’ handling of crowds during Dayton protests.
Grandy said he felt officers used unnecessary force against peaceful protesters, including deploying chemical spray and shooting pepper balls.
Grandy said the Dayton Police Department has some very good and brave officers, and most officers he has personally met seemed to be decent people.
But he said poor black neighborhoods have been over-policed and added he does not believe department leadership is open to community-recommended changes.
The Community Police Council was established to address longstanding racial tension, improve relationships between law enforcement and communities they serve and identify policy, practice and procedures for true reform, the Human Relations Council said in a statement.
Biehl said the police department and the Community Police Council have worked together for a long time and their efforts included focused outreach to members of the clergy, youth and others for engagement in community building.
He said one example is the Police And Youth Together (PAYT) program that was expanded in recent years to engage more youth with police in “concentrated” activities.
The relationship between police and the black community without question has a difficult and troubled history, Biehl said.
A cultural change in policing toward community-oriented policing and problem-oriented policing were the direct outcome of the need to reform police practices that caused and continue to cause a loss of legitimacy in the eyes of community members, Biehl said.
These reforms continue, but there are challenges, including economic declines and recessions, he said.
But Biehl said he has discussed with the Community Police Council over the past few years ways to increase the effectiveness of collective efforts to improve community safety.
He said that needs to be “one of our core focus areas but it has lagged behind other relationship-building efforts.”
“I believe what is needed is a change in community-police interaction and engagement which requires ‘mutual accountability’ for cultural change,” he said.
The police department hosts events intended to build connections between officers and community members, like "Coffee With a Cop."
The department in recent years has tried to boost minority recruitment efforts, after some very low-diversity police recruit classes.
But Grandy said police leadership did not listen when Community Police Council members raised concerns about new ShotSpotter gunshot-detection technology the police department installed in northwest Dayton.
Some members thought the money spent on the technology instead should have been invested into community-policing efforts, putting officers on the street who could build relationships with residents and neighbors, he said.
Last year, a Facebook video showed the arrest of a woman in West Dayton who was recording officers handcuff and take a motorist into custody. The woman was charged with misdemeanor counts of obstructing official business, resisting arrest and disorderly conduct.
Grandy said he and other Community Police Council members thought the charges against the woman should be dropped and she and the officers involved should go through mediation.
But Grandy said that never happened, and eventually she pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, though the other charges were withdrawn.
After the viral video incident, members of the Community Police Council questioned the purpose of the council and what it actually could do to address community concerns.
Personnel records obtained by the Dayton Daily News through a public records request show Grandy was suspended for one day in July 2019 for a social media post he made about the incident in the Facebook video.
Grandy also was disciplined earlier this year for making social media comments in October that the city deemed “inappropriate” or “harmful” to community-police relations, documents in his personnel file shows.
Grandy said he was speaking out about a Facebook post from a Dayton police officer about Kwasi Casey.
Grandy has struggled to maintain neutrality in his role as community-police relations coordinator and serve as a facilitator, instead of an advocate, according to a January 2020 performance improvement plan in his personnel file.
Grandy was “challenged” in his position, which is supposed to build bridges and build better working relationships, according to the plan.
Grandy was provided a written notice of counseling and served a suspension in mid-2019 for public comments that were deemed divisive, the plan states.