Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley on Wednesday unveiled five steps the city plans to take to try to improve the relationship between the community and police.
The announcement comes after the city’s police department has been criticized by some protesters and community members, as well by the city’s former community-police relations coordinator.
Whaley said the city wants to review and evaluate use-of-force incidents to try to identify evidence of bias; expand implicit bias and de-escalation training for officers; review and improve police recruitment efforts; increase transparency in the process used to file complaints of alleged police misconduct; and strengthen relationships between officers and community members.
“To ensure that these aren’t empty promises, I am committed to issuing quarterly updates to the community about our progress,” Whaley said.
But some community members who listened to Whaley’s plans said they are skeptical that real change lies ahead.
“You’re here for your photo op to just tell us that you’re going to do something, that you are willing to hold people accountable,” said Alana Brookshire, a 28-year-old Dayton resident, addressing the speakers at the press conference. “Your system is racist, your system is not fair.”
Jared Grandy, who resigned as Dayton’s community-police relations coordinator last week after what he says was growing frustration with police leadership, said he hopes city leaders’ efforts are sincere and impactful, but he’s worried they won’t actually make much of a difference.
“We’ll see — I don’t know if this is different — only time will tell if this is different,” he said. “It did not sound different from past efforts.”
Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said the five focus areas the mayor identified are appropriate and much needed.
“I will support those efforts, the members of the police department will support those efforts, and I’m certain the FOP will support those efforts,” he said. “We are never done in improving the way we provide services to citizens, in an ever-changing and increasingly complex environment.”
On Wednesday night, the Dayton FOP issued a statement in support of the mayor’s initiative, but also said calls for the termination or resignation of Biehl are unwarranted.
“The FOB#44 is committed to continuing minority recruitment efforts. We welcome the idea of implementation of police body cameras to increase the transparency initiative. We would also support constructive dialog on the implementation of a community review community. ... The FOP#44 stands by and is committed to Chief Richard Biehl for his tremendous leadership and dedication to repairing and strengthening community relationships.”
At a press conference outside City Hall on Wednesday, Whaley shared her plans to improve the relationship between the community and law enforcement.
Whaley said as mayor it’s her responsibility to identify ways the city contributes to systems that keep black people from feeling safe, valued and prevent them from having opportunities to thrive.
She said she hopes these steps will be an important part of the city’s ongoing efforts to improve equity and combat systemic racism.
Whaley said the city will carefully review and analyze the process citizens use to lodge complaints against police.
She said the city quickly will develop and release an improved process with better community involvement, with the goal of making sure complaints are investigated and resolved in a transparent way.
The city has learned about some incidents of police conduct during the protests over the weekend that is concerning and does not reflect the organization’s values, Whaley said. Whaley encouraged anyone who saw what they believe was police misconduct to report it to email@example.com.
She said complaints will be reviewed by the law department, which is independent from the police department, and the city manager and mayor will receive a copy of their report.
The city will launch an “external process” to assess all recent incidents in which Dayton police used force, Whaley said.
The goal is to identify patterns that indicate bias, and that information will help inform a review of use-of-force policies involving community leaders, Whaley said.
Dayton police officers are required to complete implicit bias and de-escalation training, and the city will try to strengthen and improve these programs, while also requiring all public safety personnel to participate, Whaley said.
The city, alongside community members, will assess oversight and selection processes and practices of police recruitment, partly with a goal of improving diversity, she said.
“We recognize that recruitment is a crucial aspect of creating the kind of police department culture we want to foster,” she said.
The city also will seek “creative ways” to form good relationships between police and the people they serve, city leaders said.
“We’re here for you and we want to hear from you,” said Dayton City Commission Chris Shaw.
Donald Domineck, chair of the Dayton chapter of the New Black Panther Party, said police leadership often says the right things, but that doesn’t reflect the attitudes of officers who patrol the city.
“You’ll say one thing on TV, but it doesn’t trickle down to that officer on the street,” he said.
Brookshire accused the Dayton Police Department of having racists and white supremacists on the force.
She said police laughed in her face as she was hit with pepper spray during last weekend’s protests. She repeatedly demanded the city fire officers who “do not like black people.”
She said real and needed accountability is getting rid of bad cops in the department’s ranks immediately.
“When is the nonsense going to stop,” she said.
Biehl was asked at the press conference about statements Grandy made, accusing police leadership of being unwilling to make community-recommended changes in police policies and culture.
Biehl said, “It’s just fundamentally not accurate. You go back and look at the history of what the Community Police Council and the department has done for years.”
Biehl said the action steps proposed by the mayor is needed and probably represents the most essential work done in the area of police-community relations in decades.
But Grandy, who praised the mayor’s efforts to make changes, said police leadership so far has shown no willingness to accept community-recommended changes.
Grandy said he decided to leave his coordinator job after more than three years because he felt Chief Biehl was not interested in making reforms the community wants to see.
The police department has a problem with systematic racism and that needs to change, and protests will continue until there is justice, he said.
“My experience there is you heard the passionate cries from the community behind closed doors at a boardroom table,” he said. “Chief Biehl did what he does best, which is elude those comments, which is why we’ve made no progress.”
Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said the city has a long history of working on issues of race and equity, and it has developed strong ideas and programs within the city organization, as well as in partnership with community members.
Dickstein said Dayton is fortunate to have a “strong, progressive” police chief who is committed to improving equity.
“The problems that exist are large, but they are not insurmountable,” she said. “I am thankful that we are a community that values these difficult conversations, and this administration is committed to making real progress.”
“I know that Dayton police and the entire administration are committed to hearing the community’s feedback and enacting meaningful policy change,” Dickstein said.
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