Dayton NAACP unit shines at national convention

Unit wants civilian review board in place to look into police issues

The Dayton Unit NAACP brought home two awards from last week’s NAACP National Convention in Cincinnati.

The Dayton unit placed second nationally for the two Thalheimer awards, which Dayton unit president Derrick Foward called the “highest awards that any local unit can receive nationally.”

One dealt with programming, or the quality of community programs that the unit implemented during the past year. The other award was for publications, which considered how well the unit publicized their efforts.

Dayton placed first at the past three national conventions, but this year finished behind Brooklyn’s unit for programming and Long Beach, Calif., for publications.

Foward was proud that his team was able to receive national recognition for its work.

“It’s a very humbling feeling, to know that the work you do in your local community does not go unnoticed statewide or nationally,” Foward said. “But we don’t do this for the recognition. We don’t get paid for the work that we do here locally.”

Although Foward was glad to accept national recognition for last year’s efforts, he and other NAACP leaders were troubled by the fact Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump declined to speak at this year’s convention.

The NAACP bills itself as a nonpartisan organization, with both Republican and Democratic politicians speaking at the convention. Ohio’s Republican U.S. senator Rob Portman and governor John Kasich spoke at the event, as well as Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

“I was disappointed. (Trump) decided not to address us, so it was very discouraging,” Foward said. “We wanted to ask him some pointed questions, but unfortunately we were denied that because he decided not to come down and participate.

“He’s never been a member of Congress, so we don’t know how he’s going to vote on a number of issues affecting us.”

Among multiple initiatives that the Dayton unit will focus on in the coming year is a civilian review board, which will attempt to hold local police accountable for unjustified violence.

The review board would be independent from the Dayton police department, made up of a panel of community members who would be able to investigate police misconduct and violence, hold hearings, subpoena witnesses and make recommendations while reporting findings to the public.

“Right now you have law enforcement prosecuting law enforcement,” Foward said. “We want a board that’s made up of the citizens, to review various cases where there appear to be discriminatory actions in place.”

Foward has assigned the Rev. David Fox, the unit’s criminal justice chair, to spearhead the effort. Fox is a former Dayton police officer and also served as the chief of police for Wilberforce University.

Fox says he can provide a unique and necessary perspective to the unit’s review board.

“I bring an understanding and knowledge of police practice and police training, as well as police response to critical situations,” Fox said. “I think that’s a very valuable asset, to know how police think and act under pressure.”

The Dayton unit aims to present its plan for the board to Dayton police chief Richard Biehl by Sept. 1. It hopes to have the program implemented by the start of 2017.

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