Mayor on improving police and black community relations: ‘We cannot do any of this alone’

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Photo by Stewart Halfacre
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. Photo by Stewart Halfacre

“The issue of the relationship between the police and the community is not easy. There is a great deal of mistrust, fear and apprehension on both sides. But I’m grateful that this is not a new conversation in Dayton — simply one that needs to evolve and produce real action,” Dayton mayor says.

(NOTE: This guest column appeared on the Dayton Daily News’ Ideas and Voices page Sunday, June 6, 2020. Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson asked a diverse group of people with ties to the Dayton area how our black community’s relationship with our police can be improved. Columns from other participants are linked throughout this piece.)

I said this last weekend, but I’ll say it again now — I believe and the city of Dayton believes that black lives matter. Black lives are essential to Dayton. Black people are essential to making this city great.

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As a white person, it is my responsibility to understand the structures and biases that kept us from celebrating these black lives for too long. And as mayor, it is my responsibility to identify the way that the city contributes to systems that keep black people from feeling safe, feeling valued and having the opportunity to thrive in our city.

Last month, George Floyd was murdered by police in Minneapolis. In response to that, and the systemic racism that infects our nation, people took to the streets in Dayton to voice their anger, frustration and sorrow. I want to thank all of those who protested peacefully and used their voices to push us to be better — as a city and as a nation.

I also thank our police who worked to ensure safety in difficult and complicated situations. We are grateful for their service to our community. However, we have seen some videos of police conduct this weekend that was very concerning to me and does not reflect our organization’s values. We are committing to a full process to investigate this behavior.

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Given recent events and our ongoing commitment as a city to racial equity, last week we announced five actions related to police in Dayton:

1. Increase transparency in the process to report suspected police misconduct and strengthen the Citizen Appeal Board made up of community members.

2. Assess all recent incidences in which force was used by Dayton police to look for patterns and biases, which will inform a review of use of force policies.

3. Continue implicit bias and de-escalation training for all Dayton police officers.

4. Review police recruitment, oversight and selection processes to better identify any potential issues in new officers and increase diversity in the force.

5. Continue to deepen community engagement by rank and file officers to strengthen relationships with the people they serve and protect.

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We cannot do any of this alone. We will need citizens to engage with these issues with the same passion and intensity we saw this past weekend.

The issue of the relationship between the police and the community is not easy. There is a great deal of mistrust, fear and apprehension on both sides. But I’m grateful that this is not a new conversation in Dayton — simply one that needs to evolve and produce real action.

These are trying times, but I still believe in Dayton. I still believe in the grit and resilience of this city. I still believe in our ability to live up to our values.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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Nan Whaley is the mayor of Dayton.

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