Mayors pledge police reform, racial inequity efforts

Dayton, Ohio, Mayor Nan Whaley (R) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) join fellow Democrats for a news conference at the U.S. Capitol Sept. 9, 2019. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Mayors from across Ohio said they are already implementing plans to address racial bias and increase police relations in their cities. 

The Ohio Mayors Alliance said a Police Reform Support Network will be formed to take recommendations on changes to police and community efforts, and “focus on turning these ideas into action by supporting policy changes at the local level.”

“A lot of times systems are in place for us to not make change,” said Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, during a press call on the announcement. “We all know and recognize that we have work to do inside our police departments and inside our cities.”

The support network plans to “assess police reforms” throughout Ohio and the country, share best practices and policy standards and implement them. Focuses will include use of force, body cameras, oversight and accountability, training and recruitment, and “rethinking public safety more broadly,” according to the alliance.

Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther was a part of the press call as well, and said he has directed the chief of the Columbus Division of Police to review use of chemical sprays, and “immediately stop the use of pepper spray and tear gas” by police as part of reforms he hopes to put in place.

Whaley said Dayton is “looking into” removing tear gas and rubber bullets from police use, but said she wants to see the community engaged in the conversation as decisions are made.

“I would say everything’s on the table around use of force in Dayton,” Whaley said.

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz said local governments can no longer count on “meaningful partnerships” with politicians in Washington, D.C., and even some within the Ohio Statehouse.

“Frankly speaking, we know we’re going to have to do this work ourselves,” Kapszukiewicz said.

Toledo’s mayor said he supported reforms Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced on Wednesday, but said progress will be difficult when “he is dealing with a state legislature that is not representative, in my opinion, of Ohio.”

The mayors agreed that the state should require ongoing training for police officers, even after their basic training is complete at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA).

Systemic cuts to social services have not only created a more complex job description for police, but also created the need for difficult conversations about how to bring about social change with less revenue to support it, according to the alliance members.

“There’s a level of uncertainty out there that people just aren’t comfortable with, so how do we change that,” said Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan. “I think some of these organizations, we’re going to have to have some hard conversations with them, how do they address the needs? We’ve identified them, now let’s go fund them.”