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Village Council

Village Council — YSPD review in progress

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Bob Wasserman’s career in law enforcement started in Yellow Springs where, as an Antioch undergrad, he volunteered as a night dispatcher for the YS Police Department under then-Chief Jim McKee. 

Now a nationally known police consultant, Wasserman has returned to the Village 50 years later to assess the YSPD and recommend ways to improve the community-police relationship here.

“The objective is to come out with a strategy and a set of recommendations that can make a difference in establishing a cohesion of purpose,” Wasserman told Council at its April 15 regular meeting.

Wasserman looks forward to helping a community that remains near to his heart, he said.

“Yellow Springs is a very special place,  and we have to make sure it stays that way,” he said.

The work will consist of three parts, Wasserman told Council: First, he’ll review the policies and procedures of the department. Then he’ll conduct interviews with a diverse group of residents and with YSPD staff. Finally, he will host a public forum for citizens to “share their observations of how policing should be.”

“It’s very important that I get everybody engaged to make sure this is a broad group that comes in,” Wasserman said of the forum.

The public forum is tentatively scheduled for the third week of May. Wasserman hopes to deliver a final plan in June.

Wasserman started last week, setting up in a temporary office in the Bryan Center. This week, Wasserman’s partner, Bob Hass, police commissioner for Cambridge, Mass., will continue the work while Wasserman travels to another commitment.

Wasserman first came to Yellow Springs in 1960 to attend Antioch. The sociology major sparked up a friendship with McKee, the local chief from 1959–1993, and started volunteering regularly at the department. 

Ahead of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1965 visit to campus to give the commencement speech, McKee tasked Wasserman with drafting a 20-page security plan for the event. Wasserman went on to get his master’s in police administration from Michigan State, before returning to the village after graduation and working for a year as an assistant to then-Village Manager Howard Kahoe. During that time Wasserman also married villager Susan Hollister in a local ceremony at Rockford Chapel. 

After leaving the village, Wasserman went on to hold leadership positions in police departments in Dayton, Boston and Houston. He served as chief of staff of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, and helped restructure Bosnia’s police forces following that country’s war, among other activities in a 53-year career. He is now the senior vice president of law enforcement consulting with Hillard Heintz, a security risk management firm based in Chicago.

Wasserman said that the village represents a “unique set of policing challenges” and that he believes his experience can be helpful in addressing the policing concerns here.

“I’m a neutral person and I will call on my professional experience as a way to problem solve here,” Wasserman said in an interview. 

Wasserman said his most important task is to listen to local concerns. He also already has a general sense of the values of the village and what villagers want to see in their police department.

“[The community] wants to know its police. It’s committed to transparency. It’s sophisticated in dealing with diversity. It wants officers who are skilled with the technical aspects of police and do it in a manner that builds respect,” Wasserman said.

Council has budgeted $30,000, plus expenses, for the assessment.

YS Mayor’s Court held as example

A new report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio critical of mayor’s courts nevertheless praises the Yellow Springs court as an example of how mayor’s courts “have the potential to be centers of justice,” according to the report.

Mayor Pam Conine presented the final report to Council at its April 15 meeting. She said that she had reached out to the ACLU and met with them twice to share more about the local court after initially seeing comments from the group that were “derogatory” about mayor’s courts.

“Yellow Springs Mayor’s Court is held up as an example of a mayor’s court doing hard work, helping our citizens get local justice for local issues and not be a source of revenue generation,” Conine said of the report.

The ACLU report noted serious problems with Ohio’s nearly 300 mayor’s courts, concluding that they can be discriminatory, profit-seeking and lacking transparency. 

By contrast, Yellow Springs’ court actually costs money, the ACLU report noted, losing $35,704 in 2017 and $18,308 in 2018. The role of the now-defunct Justice System Task Force in reviewing any changes to mayor’s court was also highlighted as “an accepted and critical part of the village governing structure,” the report states.

Home, Inc. partnership aired

At Council’s April 15 meeting, Council Vice President Marianne MacQueen led a conversation on ways to “formalize the relationship” between local affordable housing land trust, Home, Inc., and the Village.

MacQueen suggested a few possible agreements, from a simple Memorandum of Understanding outlining how Home, Inc. might help plan the proposed Glass Farm development, to a development agreement and an agreement on assisting with home rehab, according to a memo to Council.

In response, Council member Lisa Kreeger said that while Home, Inc. brings expertise, she remained concerned a development agreement might limit the possibilities of partnering with other developers, or working with a group of local developers who might band together. 

“If we are locking out other Yellow Springs developers and if we are locking out other rehab people we are really making a mistake,” Kreeger said.

MacQueen countered that it is rare for a community as small as Yellow Springs to have an affordable housing organization and questioned whether another developer might actually come to the table.

Soon after the conversation began, Kineta Sanford, who currently works at Home, Inc., recused herself from the discussion. MacQueen helped found Home, Inc. and was its director from 2003–2011, but according to Village Manager Patti Bates this week, that does not constitute a conflict of interest because MacQueen’s formal association with the group ended more than a year ago.

New commission members

Villagers were approved to the following boards and commissions: Emily Seibel (Economic Sustainability Commission); Sue Pfeiffer (Environmental Commission); and Dino Pallota, Anthony Salmonson and Scott Osterholm (Board of Zoning Appeals). 

Voluntary forms show little diversity

With the Village manager search nearing its end, Council has begun reviewing the process.

Of the 62 applicants who applied for the position, only 20 voluntarily filled out a self-identification form. Of those, 17 identified as white males and three identified as white females. Forty-two candidates did not complete the form.

The form was created to see if the village was able to garner a diverse pool of candidates for the position, according to Council member Kevin Stokes.

Negotiations are continuing with the Village manager candidate who was offered the position last week, Housh confirmed by email on Tuesday.

Council plans to announce and officially vote in the new Village manager at its next meeting on May 6, at 7 p.m., in Council chambers. 

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