Police Reform Groups Offer 90 Recommendations, But Dayton Only Takes One
The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked closer scrutiny of police departments across the country. In Dayton, the City Commission announced a plan last summer for police reform that involved forming five community working groups and re-energizing the city’s Human Relations Council, an agency tasked with advancing civil rights in Dayton.
Now, nearly 10 months later, the working groups are wrapping up their efforts.
The groups have submitted 90 recommendations on areas like use of force, recruitment and training. But only one has been fully implemented so far — new body cameras.
Yet the city was already discussing body cameras before the groups had even started meeting. And in February, after Trotwood police officers shot and killed a man named Andrew Hogan, the Dayton Unit NAACP demanded body cameras for police officers.
Julio Mateo is a member of one of the working groups. He’s worked with the city on community police relations for the past several years. He says he’s gained a lot of insight into how police officers are trained, thanks to the working groups.
“We've had people come in and talk with us about different topics and educate us about the escalation or the implicit bias or competence,” Mateo said. “I think that's good, too.”
The groups have been meeting monthly over Zoom to discuss various ideas on improving policing in communities, especially communities of color. Each group is chaired by a city commissioner and has members from the community, the police department, the Community Police Council, and experts on the criminal justice system.
Mateo’s group came up with 24 recommendations. However, none of those recommendations have been implemented.
“They said we're going to meet for six to nine months and put together a report with recommendations,” Mateo said. “And then we were going to disband. And I'm like, that sounds like talking. That does not sound like action.”
On the city’s website, it says that the commission has 30 days to either accept, deny or ask for more information. Once they’ve accepted the recommendation, the commission directs the city manager and the police department on how to move forward.
However, Mateo has spent the past several months repeatedly pushing the city to be more transparent with the public on how decisions are made. Some decisions are made without everyone’s approval. Others have taken much longer than the required 30 days to review.
He points out that the city commission is a public body made up of commissioners and a mayor, and that they should be sharing their process publicly.
“That hasn't happened," Mateo said. "That's not what has happened at all. But that's what they are saying is happening.”
One recommendation called for the police to hold on to records of use of force violations for longer. The current policy calls for keeping those records for four years. The new recommendation would extend that to 10.
However, this recommendation was sent back to the commission for “further review,” without any explanation as to why or when it might be accepted.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley takes issue with criticism that the city hasn’t been transparent about the process. Police reform can be slow and complicated — and it involves a lot of different moving parts and budgeting decisions.
“There is all this other embedded work happening and the work is going on in all the departments," Whaley said. "I don't think it is a fair representation of what's really happening in the city.”
And, she said, there are other priorities and demands on the city’s almost $200 million budget.
“I think probably if you ask me what most citizens are worried about," Whaley says, "they're worried about the direct city services, like police, fire, like public works that are going to be slower this time because this budget didn't have the funding to do that.”
Critics of the police reform process point to another significant budget cut: The Human Relations Council. More than 450 people signed a petition last month to protest the cuts to the HRC.
However, the HRCs funding was reduced by almost 20% — one of the biggest cuts across all city departments.
During a city commission meeting in late February, city budget director Dianne Shannon said the city had to make cuts across the board, not just to the HRC, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Out of 21 departments, 18 departments experienced decreases, and three departments experienced increases,” Shannon said.
The police department was one of those three departments that saw an increase. Its budget went up by $1.5 million. It’s unclear whether any of that new money will be put toward implementing the groups’ recommendations.
Mateo says the process has been frustrating — and he plans to continue meeting with his group after they disband.
“I think there are a lot of good things from this process, and I also think that it is not going to have that level of impact that it could have been done more intentionally to transform things,” Mateo said. “But I don't think the people who are doing it want to transform things.”
The groups will disband April 1. The city is now putting together an implementation committee that will meet from April to November.
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