Dayton board frustrated with lack of police reforms

Members of a city of Dayton police/community relations committee this week echoed frustrations with police leadership that led the committee’s coordinator to resign last week.

Members of Dayton’s Community Police Council said this week they also have become frustrated by what they feel is the Dayton Police Department’s resistance to reforms and a change in culture.

“Most community members do not feel that the CPC (Community Police Council) has led to real change in culture, policies or other reform within the DPD,” according to a statement the council provided the Dayton Daily News on Tuesday. “Some have lost hope. Others still have some hope that the work of the CPC will matter.”

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Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley and city and police leaders Wednesday unveiled a series of steps they say the city will take to improve police-community relations and try to address systemic racism.

The Community Police Council has engaged with many issues that are at forefront of today’s discussions and the council laid the groundwork for the city to act quickly in response to the desires and demands of protesters, Whaley said.

But the council has had issues with being effective, and the city has worked with staff to re-evaluate the council’s role and try to figure out how to make it more impactful, Whaley said.

“We are committed to making sure there are structures that actually produce results and improve understanding between police and the residents they serve,” she said.

On Saturday, Dayton’s community-police coordinator Jared Grandy resigned from his job of more than three years, expressing frustration with police leadership. Grandy had a base salary of $69,625. The Community Police Council has 12 members and meets monthly to work on initiatives meant to improve the ties between police officers and members of the community.

Grandy said Dayton police Chief Richard Biehl says the right things in public and to the media to seem like a progressive leader, but said he is not actually interested in trying to make community-recommended changes to police policies and practices.

Biehl denies this characterization and said he and his department have worked closely for years with community members on department initiatives and goals.

This week, the Community Police Council in a statement said it is saddened by Grandy’s resignation and praised his leadership as coordinator.

“We believe the CPC, under Jared’s passionate leadership, has had some success to engage members of the black community through listening sessions, faith-based breakfasts, town halls, block parties, and other approaches over the years to gather input from the community to propose changes,” the council said.

The council’s statement said the Dayton Police Department seemed unwilling to embrace change and reforms have been the topic of conversation at many of its meetings in recent years.

Members of the council have said the police department should prioritize community policing and preventative approaches to crime instead of prioritizing funding for enforcement and technology.

The council’s statement said the Dayton police force needs more diversity, and the department should emphasize cultural training and training that helps officers better understand the communities they serve, the council said.

“We have been frustrated by how little those recommendations have led to a change in approach within the DPD,” the council said.

The council statement said its members believe there is room for improvement regarding the black community’s relationship to police.

The Community Police Council has worked hard for years to come up with ideas for improving the police department’s interactions with citizens and policies, but their recommendations have been ignored by police leadership, said Grandy.

“We have intelligent, brave, courageous people at the table, making these requests,” he said. “They go nowhere. Why? Because they go to a brick wall, which is Chief Biehl.”

Grandy on Wednesday praised Mayor Whaley for her recommendations, and he said the Community Police Council has worked on some of those issues for as long as he was in his role.

Dayton police leadership hopefully will be open to much-needed changes, Grandy said.

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Whaley said many people have worked on community-police issues for years without seeing a lot of progress, but the city now will have quarterly updates so leaders are held accountable.

“I know, I understand how people have been working on this for years and years and years, and that you all are tired,” Whaley said. “I can use my position as mayor to working to commit to working, holding actions and holding accountability.”

Whaley said the city values the voices of the people who serve on the Community Police Council, and she understands they have “tangled” with these difficult issues for years and have grown frustrated about a lack of progress.

“This weekend has highlighted that this conversation needs to be significantly broadened to allow for more people at the table,” she said. “With the community, we will decide the best structure moving forward always keeping in mind the intended outcome of real change.”

Sherry Gale, pastor at Grace United Methodist Church, says she quit as a member of the Community Police Council in 2018 because she felt she was not able to make much of a difference to improve community-police relations through her work with the group.

The community should be involved in reviewing police policies and recommending changes, but police leadership did not seem interested in letting council members help guide policy decisions, she said.

“You can only do and say so much,” she said. “The top leadership in the department, in my opinion, does not listen and does really not want input on policy.”

But, Gale said, things could have changed since she left. She also said she hopes the ongoing protests lead to real changes.

The city’s Human Relations Council, the organization that handles civil rights complaints and manages the city’s disadvantaged business programs, said in a statement that it is “absolutely imperative” that the work and recommendations of the Community Police Council are visible and get the attention they deserve.

“This has been a very difficult journey to move the ball forward,” the HRC statement said. “As an organization that views equity as our responsibility, it is our hope this provides the opportunity to restructure and re-engagement in a way that give serious credence and a voice and the community being able to weigh in on how they would like their neighborhoods to be policed.”

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein defended Biehl’s leadership and said the city is fortunate to have a strong and progressive police chief who cares about and tries to improve equity in the city.

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