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Government & Politics

Ohio Mayors Alliance Launches Network to Support Police Reform

a photo of Dan Horrigan with protesters
SUSAN ZAKE
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KSU COLLABORATIVE NEWS LAB
Davonta'e Winchester (in red), who helped organize a protest march in Akron on June 6, 2020, speaks with Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan (in orange) as they stand in the middle of S. High St. near the corner of E. Exchange St.

The Ohio Mayors Alliance, a coalition of Ohio's 30 largest cities, has announced a new effort to support public safety in Ohio.

 

The Police Reform Support Network for Ohio cities was announced by Keary McCarthy, executive director of the Ohio Mayors Alliance during a video conference Wednesday discussing efforts to address racial injustice.

“This will help our cities do three things; assess, share and support efforts to implement best practices to end racial bias and improve community and police relations,” McCarthy said.

 

a screen grab of Dan Horrigan
Credit ZOOM
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ZOOM
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan participates in a virtual meeting Wednesday June 17, 2020 with members of the Ohio Mayors Alliance.

Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan: police reform is 'vital'
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan said his city is facing a similar situation to others across Ohio and the country in terms of challenging racial injustice and the need to reform various policing practices and procedures.

 

“Systemic inequities are not new problems for Akron and frankly it’s just not a unique problem to police departments,” Horrigan said.

He said Akron has internally looked at hiring practices, policies, vendors and community and economic programs to find solutions to the decades of citywide practices that are biased.

The city of Akron currently employs an independent police auditor, Phillip Young, whose role is to reach out  to the community as an alternative to filing a complaint against an Akron police officer. 

Young's roles also include monitoring and auditing complaint investigations to "ensure they are thorough, objective and fair." He makes policy recommendations and responds "to the scene of, and review officer-involved shooting investigations,” according to Akron’s website.

Horrigan mentioned the Akron Civil Rights Commission and the passing of a comprehensive, nondiscrimination ordinance. He also said Akron passed wide-scale reforms to the procurement process that increased diversity in the city’s vendors and contracts.

In partnership with Akron's local chamber, Horrigan said, a framework was created to strategically battle economic disparities for black residents. This includes small business programs that specifically support black-owned businesses. 

"All of this work only scratches the surface of all the work in front of us," Horrigan said. "I spent the last four-and-a-half-plus years working diligently and intently on righting those inequities, but true and sustainable change goes far beyond one city or one mayor’s actions."

Horrigan said the focus on police reform is paramount to this type of work, that it is vital to the health of the community. 

"Our systemic changes are harder to enact if some of our residents don't feel safe," he said. "The Ohio Mayors Alliance is embarking on a joint effort in helping cities reform policing practices and rethink community safety."

The Ohio Mayors Alliance will head the initiative and will include a network of partners that will support cities as they understand national best practices and implement reforms.

"The Ohio Mayors Alliance Police Reform Support Network will: assess police reform policies in Ohio cities and nationally; share best practices and policy standards within Ohio cities; and support local implementation by helping to navigate barriers to reform and bringing in resources to implement. It will start by focusing on limits on use of force, expanding body cameras, improving oversight, strengthening accountability, improving training and recruitment, and rethinking public safety more broadly," according to the press release.

The network will work on reforms needed at a local level and look at systematic challenges faced by criminal justice and social service reforms. 

a photo of Dan Horrigan with protesters
Credit SUSAN ZAKE / KSU COLLABORATIVE NEWS LAB
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KSU COLLABORATIVE NEWS LAB
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, in an orange shirt, takes a knee along with two Akron police officers after being encouraged to do so by protesters in front of the Harold K. Stubbs Justice Center in Akron. Two groups of marchers joined together and looped through downtown and the west side during a Justice Against Police Brutality protest that began at South High and East Exchange Streets on June 6, 2020.

This joint effort between the cities will work with the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services to join state and local efforts, and better integrate the work of the Ohio Collaborative on Community-Police Reforms. It will also work to bring other partners to the table such as the Ohio State University’s Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity

"Right now, cities are really on an island trying to address long-standing systemic problems that are impacting cities all across the state and all across the country," Horrigan said. "This network we are forming will give cities the individual support to assess and implement those much needed changes."

 

George Floyd's death an 'urgent reminder' of work to be done
Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said, "George Floyd’s tragic death was a grim and urgent reminder of the work that we all must do to address systemic racism in the country."

Ginther said cities and police departments are not immune to these problems and that "we all must do more."

During his state of the city address in February, Ginther said, he shared his Equity Agenda, which calls out racism and discrimination, and his plans as mayor to address it. He also charged Columbus' health commissioner, Dr. Mysheika Roberts, with exploring racism as a public health crisis.

Following the first weekend of protests in Columbus, Ginther said a new way for residents to report incidents of excessive or inappropriate force by the Columbus Police is through a civilian from the Department of Public Safety’s Equal Employment Opportunity Office, created last year to handle discrimination complaints.

Complaints can be sent to reportCPD@columbus.gov.  

The reports will be investigated by a civilian outside the chain of command from the Department of Public Safety’s Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Office, created last year to address discrimination complaints.

Ginther said Columbus began the work of establishing an independent civilian review board. By July 1, a working group will be announced that will help create the civilian review board that works for Columbus. The board will be seated by the end of the year. 

Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther says Columbus police will immediately stop the use of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse non-aggressive, non-violent crowds.

The city of Columbus announced Tuesday two steps in police reform. The first is a chief’s advisory panel to allow residents to have direct input on policies and procedures used by Columbus police. 

Ginther also directed the chief of police to complete a thorough review of how chemical spray agents are deployed and to immediately stop the use of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse non-aggressive, non-violent crowds. 

He said this action is in direct response to what the community is saying and what they are seeing following George Floyd’s death.

"We have so much to learn from other cities and to share what we have learned to help every community confront racial injustice," Ginther said. "This collaboration will draw our best practices and research from around Ohio and the country to help cities do the difficult work of implementing reforms."

Youngstown's Brown: Local departments will need help
Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown agreed with Ginther, and said local departments cannot solve the problems alone.

"We’re going to need external support and help," Brown said.

He spoke about how when the mayors came together and shared their stories, all of them were different and unique to where they live, but there were similarities. 

Brown spoke about the diversity training Youngstown police go through in addition to immersing them within the community in terms of culture, religion and economics.

He said there is success within the community where there is a Citizen's Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). Brown said the program brings local clergy and the police chief together to talk when issues arise, or semiannual meetings to discuss issues that may not be happening right away.

When the protests occurred in Youngstown, Brown said they went to CIRV to plan. 

Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown says a Citizen's Initiative to Reduce Violence has helped his city.

Brown said there are issues with mental health, health disparities in minority communities, economics and the economy itself. He said these are all areas that need to be addressed when talking about reforms. 

"Youngstown has its problems just like anywhere else, but I think together if we decide it's got to stop, it can't just be the black mayor of Youngstown, Ohio or the black congressman from the state of Ohio," Brown said. "It's got to be our colleagues, our allies who are saying 'enough is enough.'"

He brought up Rayshard Brooks, 27, who was shot by police on June 12 in Atlanta, Georgia in a Wendy's parking lot. Brown said Brooks' name should not have been added to the list of black people killed by police.

"Empathy and sympathy goes a long way and at the bottom line, there has to be relationships with the people that you work with and work for," Brown said. "I think that’s what we're looking for coming together as a community."

Other attendees at the Wednesday morning meeting included Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz.

Editor's note: This article was produced through a reporting partnership with the Collaborative News Lab @ Kent State University.