Village Council— A focus on police issues
- Published: November 27, 2014
Community concerns around the local police department, an alleged incident of police misconduct and the current police chief search were a focus at Village Council’s Nov. 17 meeting.
No actions were taken, and the topics were discussion only.
A diverse group of about 70 villagers attended the October community forum on local policing, according to the Rev. Aaron Saari of the First Presbyterian Church, who gave a report on the event, sponsored by the Village Human Relations Commission, or HRC. While participants did not always agree, certain themes emerged, according to Saari.
“There is frustration among both the police and the community” around a lack of communication, Saari said, and “a fundamental lack of trust” between the two groups. Some of that lack of trust is linked to last year’s shooting of Paul E. Schenck, according to Saari.
A second theme that emerged from the forum was that “there are young people who don’t feel protected” by the police.
The commission is considering meeting with local police to deliver the forum results, according to HRC member Kathryn Hitchcock. While some criticized the lack of police participation in the October event, the HRC had requested that police stay away, for fear that their presence would prove intimidating, Hitchcock said.
Several other significant police issues, including the Village’s participation in the Drug Abuse Task Force and Greene County SWAT, remain to be addressed at a future forum after the new police chief is hired, HRC members said.
The perceived lack of trust between police and the community is also a national issue, said Council member Marianne MacQueen, who encouraged Council to look closely at police department issues. And according to Council President Karen Wintrow, “This will be a part of our agenda in 2015.”
In another police-related topic, villager Athena Fannin, who walks with crutches, spoke to Council about a Nov. 5 incident when she felt “manhandled” by Sergeant Naomi Penrod. After being called to Fannin’s home during an eviction, Penrod threatened Fannin with jail if she filmed the encounter, and attempted to grab her camera, twisting her wrist, according to Fannin. “I don’t feel safe with this officer,” she said, stating that she “strongly encourages a human rights focus from local police rather than control and authority.”
Al Schlueter, who had attended the police forum and years ago volunteered with Fannin on the Miami Township Fire Rescue squad, expressed his support for her.
“I’m shocked that a week after the forum a police officer would exert that sort of force,” Schlueter said, stating that he was alarmed that there appeared to be no disciplinary action taken.
According to Village Solicitor Chris Conard, an internal department investigation into the incident has been completed (see article on page 9) and the next step is to determine what discipline, if any, should be given. Potential disciplinary steps are outlined in the Village employee handbook, Conard said, and the specific action is determined by factors including the officer’s performance in the past.
“There are certain steps that must be followed to protect the integrity of the process,” he said.
In response to several concerns about the recent expansion of the police chief search to include those who may not meet a requirement for higher education, Conard said the purpose was to “broaden the pool” of applicants.
And dropping the higher education requirement doesn’t mean lowering standards, according to Council member Lori Askeland, who is on the search committee, but rather widening the search to include those who might have extensive experience instead.
“We wanted more flexibility” in the search, Askeland said.
See the accompanying article on chief finalists.
In other Council business:
• Council had a brief discussion on next steps following the Nov. 4 defeat of public funding for the CBE. According to Solicitor Conard, there are two options: because Village government made the loan to purchase the CBE property, the property could be returned to the Village, or Community Resources, the current land owner, could use it for economic development purposes. According to Conard, the Village has no intention of moving forward with the property and is waiting for Community Resources to state its intentions.
Council President Karen Wintrow said she considers the CBE “a developable site” that remains in the hands of Community Resources. Wintrow also stated that Council will take a more robust role regarding Village economic development in 2015.
• Council went into executive session regarding the sale of real estate.
Other items of Council’s Nov. 17 agenda, including a discussion of a potential excise tax on the new Mills Park Hotel, will be in next week’s paper, along with Finance Director Melissa Vanzant’s final look at the 2015 Village budget.