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More than 60 villagers attended the May 30 public forum for candidates for the position of police chief of Yellow Springs.

Lots of questions at police chief forum

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How would you have handled the New Year’s Eve incident, had you been chief of Yellow Springs police?

This was one of many questions posed on Tuesday, May 30, to the three candidates for the position of chief of Yellow Springs police. About 60 villagers squeezed into Council chambers to hear short presentations from the candidates — Brian Carlson , David Meister and Tim Spradlin — and then asked questions during the 90-minute event. The forum was moderated by Jalyn Roe of Village Mediation, and followed by an informal reception for villagers and candidates.

Carlson, Meister and Spradlin all currently work at the local department, with Carlson serving as interim chief since the resignation of former chief Dave Hale in early January, following the New Year’s Eve incident.

The question, posed on Facebook Open Discussion and asked by Roe, referred to the 2017 New Year’s Eve Ball Drop incident, during which four local officers behaved in a manner that many villagers found overly aggressive and hostile. The officers, who attempted to disperse the downtown crowd by driving through the crowd with sirens blaring, also physically tackled and attempted to tase a young black man, who ended up charged with a felony for obstructing official business.

Regarding the question, Interim Chief Carlson opened his response by stating, “We will heal and move on. But as a department, we made mistakes in judgement.”

Critical to handling the event differently would be having the chief on site, said Carlson, who said he would have been there. No supervisors attended the event.

“The chief needs to be present at as many public events as possible,” he said. “Ninety percent of this job is showing up.”

But he would also hope to have “empowered the officers to learn to back off,” Carlson said, stating that, “The mistake in the end is not understanding that the officer had 1,000 people to protect and one intoxicated subject at his vehicle. Imagine if at that point the officer said, ‘I’m sorry everyone, Happy New Year.’ There would have been embracing rather than opposition.”

In his response, Meister also emphasized the lack of supervisory officers as a problem.

“If I were in charge, I wouldn’t have wanted just officers there,” he said. “You have to have someone in charge who is looking from the outside and not getting caught up in emotion and ego.”

Officers should also have been trained in best practices for crowd control, he said, “so we don’t turn a peaceful crowd into a riot.”

Overall, he said, “Mistakes were made, and they were public mistakes.”

The lack of supervision was also highlighted by Spradlin, who also emphasized a lack of planning as a factor in the NYE event spinning out of control.

“In the future, we need a special events policy for everything,” he said. “And we need to plan the event in advance with all parties involved.”

Spradlin also said, regarding the officers who were on duty, “I can’t pass judgement.”

Having worked one New Year’s Eve Ball Drop in the past, Spradlin said he was concerned about the number of public intoxication and open container violations during the event, and the fact that the officers on duty were expected to ignore these offenses although they’re against the law.

“We can make it better in the future,” Spradlin said. “I’m sorry it happened.”

For a more detailed story on the police chief forum, see the June 1 Yellow Springs News.



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