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Resident records police action

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Yellow Springs Police acknowledged last week that the local department had made some errors when one of its officers allegedly used physical force against a  citizen after responding to a call for peace officer assistance at a local residence on Wednesday, Nov. 5. According to Yellow Springs Interim Police Chief Dave Hale last week, the department is investigating the incident and has not made any disciplinary decisions.

“Clearly there are some errors in judgement that have been made” by police, Hale said, referring to a two-second video the complainant posted on Facebook directly following the incident. “We’ve started an internal investigation and will figure out what disciplinary action is appropriate and apply it … I’d like to get this done in a very expedient manner — I know the community would like to see what action is taken.”

According to a brief statement by Hale last week, on the afternoon of Nov. 5 police were dispatched on a peace officer call, which according to dispatch records, was an Allen Street address. Three officers, one of whom is in training, responded, which is not unusual and depends on officer availability, Hale said.

According to the local resident involved in the incident, who is using the Facebook pseudonym “Minerva” due to safety concerns for her and her family, the call to police had been placed by her landlord who wanted assistance regarding a disagreement with her as the tenant.

When the first two officers arrived, the landlord was not present, but the officers began checking the license plates of two vehicles parked in front of the home. According to the tenant, she asked why they were “running my plates,” and told them she thought it was outside their authority. Having recently participated in protests over the Beavercreek police shooting of John Crawford in August, she knew that videotaping police was legal. So she got a camera and prepared to record the police.

Up to this point, according to both the tenant and statements from Chief Hale, there had not been any aggressive conflict between any of the parties present.

“Neither party was inciting any conflict,” Hale said.

According to the tenant, as she began recording, a third and superior officer arrived on the scene, immediately approached her and twisted her arms to force her to release the camera. The officer took the device, but not before it recorded a clip of the officer advancing toward the resident and grabbing the camera.

According to the resident, the superior officer told her repeatedly that she was going to jail unless she agreed to stop videotaping police. The resident felt threatened by the officer’s actions, which, based on recent experience, she believed to be illegal. So she called 911 because she wanted the event to be recorded in some way, and she went inside the house to get another recording device. When she reemerged, all three officers were leaving the scene.

Hale did not give the officer leave to respond in an interview.

The tenant came to Yellow Springs as an Antioch College student in 1997. She has lived in her current home for almost seven years and has two children who attend Yellow Springs schools. Her experience with police before this incident was largely positive, she said during an interview last week. She knows many officers by name, including some of those who responded to her home, and had no pre-existing reason to distrust them, though she volunteers with an organization that works closely with local police and has become aware of some police incidents that made her “feel uncomfortable.”

The resident filed a formal complaint with police last week. One of her major concerns following the incident is the fact that one of the officers was training and was likely modeling the superior’s behavior. Because she found the superior to be overly and unnecessarily aggressive, she fears that Yellow Springs police are following what she believes is a national trend to militarize municipal departments.

The main duty of an officer on a peace call is to “make sure things don’t escalate” and that neither party makes “false allegations” against the other, Hale said last week. And police do have the authority to check the license plate of any vehicle “for any criminal justice purpose,” such as to find out if the registration is current.

“You don’t have to witness a violation to justify running a plate,” he said.

Hale declined to say more about the case before the investigation is complete, which he hoped he was able to do within a few weeks.

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Resident records police action

by Lauren Heaton