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Village Council

Village Council— New policing guidelines discussed

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Local policing was in the spotlight at Village Council’s April 17 meeting. Council members discussed proposed new guidelines for Village policing, the potential need to slow down or prioritize policy recommendations from citizen groups and next steps in the Village’s search for a permanent police chief. In addition, a new full-time police officer, Mariah England, was sworn into the local department.

Members of the 365 Project’s police policy committee have been working for several months to develop new “guidelines for Village policing” that build on the Village’s 2015 vision statement for local policing and incorporate research into progressive policing practices around the country. The new guidelines are now formulated, and were presented to Council on Monday. 

“This is long-haul kind of work,” committee member Janet Mueller said of the effort to develop a “living document” for Village policing.

Council Vice President Brian Housh, who worked on the previous vision statement, endorsed the new guidelines. “I like it,” he said of the document presented by the 365 Project, adding that “there are a lot of things emphasized in this document that were not in the prior.” 

The proposed guidelines include four overarching principles for the local department: that police be “safety-centered”; that police be “peaceful,” working toward “nonviolent conflict resolution” and aiming for “the ideal of restorative justice”; that police be “demonstrably inclusive,” which means “proactively working to be fair and impartial” and aiming “to be not simply tolerant but anti-racist”; and that police be “locally minded.” 

The guidelines can be viewed at yso.org; click on the Council packet for April 18.

Once finalized, the guidelines could be incorporated into police policy and practice in a variety of ways. Council discussed passing the new guidelines as legislation, though members didn’t take that step at Monday’s meeting. According to Council member Judith Hempfling, there has been a disconnect between the 2015 policing vision supported by Council and the actual practices of the local police department.

This time, Hempfling said, “I want it to be policy.”

The guidelines could also be added to the police department’s policy manual, and could be crafted as a public statement of the Village’s policing values. Members of the 365 Project expressed a willingness to develop different versions of the guidelines to suit different uses.

Louise Smith, of the 365 Project, suggested that the guidelines be posted on the police department webpage to help attract “right-fit” officers to the Village.

“I would love to see our Village step out on this,” she said.

Council members will continue reviewing the proposed guidelines and discuss next steps at a future meeting.

The pace of change

In a related discussion, Council raised the question of how to effectively implement policy recommendations from citizen groups such as the 365 Project and the Justice System Task Force, or JSTF, without overwhelming the police department with changes. 

In addition to the 365 Project’s new policing guidelines, JSTF has already drafted a new taser policy, currently under review by Interim Chief Brian Carlson, and recommended that all local officers receive Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT, as well as training in implicit bias. (Both sets of trainings have been scheduled.) And according to Hempfling’s report from the most recent JSTF meeting, the group plans to make other recommendations soon regarding increasing the use of mayor’s court and exploring adding a social worker to the police department. 

Carlson, interim chief since January, said the flurry of recommendations and requests for information has been “overbearing” at times. His first priority is to stabilize the local force, he clarified. “Let me continue to steady the ship.” When a permanent chief is in place, “then pour on the changes,” he told Council members.

And he cautioned Council that new policing approaches would come less from sweeping policy changes than from incremental shifts in officer behavior and interactions. “The reality is this is more on the street level,” he said.

In response, Hempfling said she “understood the sense of getting overwhelmed.” She and members of JSTF and the 365 Project present at the Monday meeting agreed to consider prioritizing, pacing or perhaps slowing down recommended changes. 

“Not everything is a big rush,” noted Kate Hamilton, a member of the JSTF. The group was set up last September with a two-year timeline that calls for making recommendations on a regular basis. But that timeline was sped up after local police actions during the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop sparked outcry from many villagers.

Still, Hempfling emphasized that the group intended its work to result in meaningful policy change.

“We ultimately want it to be policy,” she said.

Next steps in chief search

In another aspect of the policing discussion, Council members agreed to resume some preliminary steps in the search for a permanent police chief. The search process was temporarily put on hold at Council’s March 20 meeting, to allow Interim Chief Carlson to settle into the role. But at Monday’s meeting, Council members appeared ready to move the process forward again.

Council member Gerry Simms urged Council to consider appointing Carlson to the permanent chief role. “We have an individual here who understands the community,” Simms said. Several letters by local citizens, included in the Council packet, likewise voiced support for making Carlson permanent chief.

But while other Council members agreed that Carlson has brought stability and positive change to the local department, they stressed the need for a defined search process, whether internal only or both internal and external, that would include a component of citizen input. 

Even if the position is only posted internally, “we still have to have a process,” Council President Karen Wintrow pointed out. 

And Village Manager Patti Bates said it was “fair labor practice” to at least conduct an internal search.

By Village Charter, hiring of the chief is up to the Village manager, according to Village Solicitor Chris Conard. But Council members stressed the need to provide direction and input. “It’s such an important position,” Hempfling said.

Council has not yet determined whether to open the search process to external as well as internal candidates. Carlson previously expressed interest in the role of permanent chief, as did another officer on the local force, according to Bates this week. Council also has not decided on a timeframe for beginning the search.

In other personnel matters, the disciplinary investigation into the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop incident is still ongoing, according to Solicitor Conard. He declined to comment on the status of the investigation, other than to say a resolution was expected soon.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Mariah England was sworn in by Mayor David Foubert as the Village’s newest full-time police officer. England, 22, lives in Dayton, and is enlisted as reserve status in the Air Force. She previously worked part-time as an officer for a small police department in northern Ohio.

England will begin training with Officer Jeff Beam on April 26.

Other items of business from Council’s April 17 meeting will be reported in the April 27 issue of the News.

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Village Council— New policing guidelines discussed

by Audrey Hackett