© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

One week in, Akron’s new police auditor hopes to remove hurdles in city's review process

Akron's new police auditor Anthony Finnell (right) speaks during a Citizens' Police Oversight Board meeting on April 3, 2024.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Akron's new police auditor Anthony Finnell (right) speaks during a Citizens' Police Oversight Board meeting on April 3, 2024.

In Akron police auditor Anthony Finnell’s first week on the job, an Akron police officer shot a 15-year-old boy after the teen allegedly pointed a fake gun at homes.

But police didn’t notify Finnell of the shooting until the morning after it happened, he said.

“I immediately started calling folks to get a briefing and information on it, and also simultaneously [tried] to work out the notification process to make sure that, you know, everything is the way it should be,” Finnell told Ideastream Public Media.

Finnell did not yet have an activated city-issued cell phone, he said. Members of the police department had his city cell number but not his personal number, Finnell said.

Finnell's phone is activated now and the department has both numbers, he said.

“We’ve worked through that. Any critical incidents, any situations where I need to be notified right away, I’m in the queue, like everyone else in the department. We took care of that on short order,” Finnell said.

Finnell, who started on March 25, is responsible for investigating use-of-force incidents and complaints of police misconduct. He will conduct investigations after the police department’s Office of Professional Standards and Accountability has already concluded investigations and released findings, per the oversight board’s recently passed rules.

Finnell has a backlog of more than 170 use-of-force investigations to go through, he said, and he’s already run into some hurdles while trying to review them.

“The process is so inefficient,” Finnell said.

The primary issue, he said, is the flow of information. Finnell has to make multiple requests with the police department to get access to information he needs to investigate, he said.

“I would like to be able to just be able to go directly to the source and get what I need, and that's going to help us review these cases quickly and help me catch up for the 170 plus that are out there,” Finnell said. “I need access to everything an internal affairs investigator has access to.”

The city’s previous police auditor Philip Young voiced some of these same concerns several years ago.

Young told Akron City Councilmembers in 2020 that not only did he go back and forth with the department over his requests but he was repeatedly denied access to information, such as body-worn camera footage.

He also said officers did not always notify him of use-of-force instances.

Finnell is going to have conversations with Acting Chief Brian Harding to try to improve the process for getting access to records, he said.

Finnell also has questions about certain phrasing officers have used in their findings.

“After that, hopefully, we will be able to help institute some changes and policies that make the policing better in Akron,” Finnell said. “I’m not saying it's bad, but I think there's some areas for improvement just in the short time I've been here.”

The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the investigation into Monday’s police shooting. Akron Police will also do an internal investigation to see if policies were followed.

After that, the case will go to Finnell. It could take a year for it to get to him, but once it does, it will become a top priority, he said.

“It’ll definitely rise to the top when it finally goes through the entire investigative process,” Finnell said.

Finnell will also be tasked with reviewing the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker, who was shot 46 times after a car and foot chase in 2022. A special grand jury declined to indict the eight Akron officers involved, and the internal affairs investigation found the officers followed proper department policies.

Finnell is also preparing a job description for the deputy auditor position and hopes to post the job soon, he added.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.