City Council Committee Issues Recommendations to Improve Policing in Akron
A city council committee reviewing public safety in Akron has released its recommendations.
The Reimagining Public Safety Committee formed in July 2020 in the wake of protests that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Council President Margo Sommerville initiated the effort "to take a dive deep into the fact-finding process, to engage in dialogue with our Akron Police Department, learn more about what works, ask questions about what can be improved, and make recommendations that can contribute to meaningful change," she writes in the report outlining the recommendations that was issued Monday. (read the full report below)
Council members spent the last six months participating in 22 meetings conducted by working groups that focused on four areas: accountability and transparency, prevention, personnel and culture, and technology and equipment.
The recommendations are broken down by committee and include:
Accountabilty & Transparency
1. Provide increased autonomy and resources for the city's Independent Police Auditor.
2. Make more data and information available to the public.
3. Offer Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training department-wide so officers are better equipped to respond to mental health and crisis issues.
4. Expand partnerships with community and social service agencies, which could include co-responding to some 911 calls.
5. Encourage strong police-community relations with regular foot and bike patrols.
Personnel & Culture
6. Create a Pathway to Law Enforcement program for those under age 21.
7. Expand professional training opportunities.
8. Eliminate maximum age restriction, which was recently raised from 35 to 40.
The Technology & Equipment committee did not issue recommendations but supports the police department's effort to launch a team this year that will use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones). The committee also supports increased police access to footage from a network of 277 cameras mounted around the city. New technology can allow this footage to be analyzed and condensed to help solve crimes. The committee suggested city council could facilitate "citizen input into how these technologies can be used in a way that meshes with public expectations of privacy and security."
The city plans to work with University of Akron students and faculty over the next several months in a new partnership that will engage the public through a survey and virtual town hall meetings.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan expressed optimism about the potential impact of the effort. "I believe the work of the Reimagining Public Safety committee can serve as the foundation for further reflection, accountability, and improvement as we build toward safer, more stable neighborhoods for all residents," Horrigan said in a statement issued with the report.