IDEAS: Reforms won’t work unless city manager, police chief listen to people

Note from Community Impact Editor Amelia Robinson: This guest column by Jared Grady appeared on the Dayton Daily News’ Ideas and Voices page Wednesday, June 24.  Grandy, Dayton’s former community-police coordinator, resigned from his job May 30. He expressed frustration with police leadership. A response to this column by Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein will appear in the section on June 25. It is embedded below. 

Mere months before the Great Flood of 1913, Dayton replaced the mayor-council form of government with the city-manager form.

The people believed a city manager form of government would run efficiently like a corporation. The board of directors dictate the direction of a company to the CEO. The company’s day-to-day operations are left to the CEO to manage.

Likewise, under the city manager form of government, city commissioners — the mayor included — choose a manager to run the daily operations of the city. The city manager is responsible for achieving objectives authorized by commissioners and has the authority to appoint and discharge subordinates in pursuit of these objectives. The city manager typically does not require any formal approval from the commission in regard to managing the city’s workforce. However, the city manager can be dismissed by the commission, which can in turn be dismissed by the people, voters.

Dayton City Commission’s most important role is choosing a city manager and holding her accountable. Any statements made by the commission or any individual commissioner — the mayor included — mean nothing if the city manager does not hold the same values and/or is not held accountable to the values asserted.

Much is being said by Mayor Nan Whaley and commissioners about policing, the most prevalent political issue of the day. Much is being demanded by the people of Dayton who seek structural reforms to our police department.

Other than words of support for Dayton police and its chief, not much has been said by Dayton City Manager Shelly Dickstein.

The Dayton City Commission, by design, cannot unilaterally reform the operations of Dayton’s police force.

Furthermore, Dayton police officers are protected by the Fraternal Order of Police. That union negotiates a contract with the city manager every two years. This contract, which ends Dec. 31, provides for the paid leave of officers who are being investigated, allows for officer’s disciplinary records to be wiped clean after two years, and gives the right of discipline exclusively to management.

These provisions are unsuited to meet the demands of the people, including the Dayton demand for an independent review board with significant powers. The FOP contract would have to provide for the possibility of an outside agency or board to enact discipline on officers who it would deem to be bad actors.

Whaley announced the city’s five-point plan to address the issue of community-police relations June 3 and is assembling a task force to work on each point.

As evidenced by Dayton NAACP’s list of eight demands, Black Lives Matters 10 demands, and general community conversation around the proposal, including Dayton Daily News “Courageous Conversations” on policing, it seems obvious that residents do not feel that the five points go far enough.

Anything that comes from these task forces would have to be agreed upon by the city manager to take effect and make it into the FOP’s contract with the city, which concludes at the end of this year. This makes the mayor’s timeline of eight to nine months seem quite peculiar.

That’s too much time to be included into the next FOP contract, just enough time to make it to the next set of elections.

>> Dayton NAACP leaders reveal 8-point proposal to reform criminal justice system

As I’ve stated, I hope Whaley is sincere in her efforts to improve community-police relations and bring about the type of change that the people want to see.

But these efforts cannot be sincere unless there is a willingness to go beyond the five points proposed.

Dickstein must be present and receptive to the calls of the people. Joe Parlett, the deputy city manager over the police department, must be present and receptive to the people’s plight.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl must be present and receptive to the structural changes being proposed by the people, and Jerry Dix, the FOP president, must be willing to include these changes when negotiating the FOP’s contract with the city.

Nothing will change unless the majority of city commissioners express a willingness to fire Dickstein and Biehl if the needs and demands of the people are not met.

Unless these things occur, the plans, the task force and all that come with it will prove to be a mere tool used to try and placate the people.

About the Author