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Police Reform Groups Offer 142 Recommendations, But Dayton Implements Just One

Dayton Police cars behind a fence. Signs warn people not to trespass and not to enter. Another sign declares the area a safe exchange zone.
Jason Saul
Dayton Police Department vehicles at the 2nd District station on Wayne Avenue.

After meeting for 10 months, five police reform working groups have submitted 142 recommendations. But the city has only implemented one.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers sparked closer scrutiny of police departments across the country. In Dayton, the City Commission announced a plan last summer for police reform that involved forming five community working groups and re-energizing the city’s Human Relations Council, an agency tasked with advancing civil rights in Dayton.

Now, nearly 10 months later, the working groups are wrapping up their efforts.

This infographic breaks down the Dayton city's police reform process. Announced in June 2020, the plan consists of five working groups that deal with five different areas of police reform, namely, training, recruitment, oversight, community engagement, and use of force. The plan is broken up into four parts: getting a wide representation of community members to sit on these groups, meeting regularly, getting input from the police department, and implementing the recommendations that come out of these groups.
Dayton City Commission Office

The groups have submitted 142recommendations on areas like use of force, recruitment and training. But only one has been fully implemented so far — a new police recruitment unit.

Other ideas, like police body cameras, have also been approved. Yet the city was already discussing body cameras before the groups had even started meeting. And in February, after Trotwood police officers shot and killed a man named Andrew Hogan, the Dayton Unit NAACP demanded body cameras for police officers.

Julio Mateo is a member of one of the working groups. He’s worked with the city on community police relations for the past several years. He says he’s gained a lot of insight into how police officers are trained, thanks to the working groups.

“We've had people come in and talk with us about different topics and educate us about the escalation or the implicit bias or competence,” Mateo said. “I think that's good, too.”

The groups have been meeting monthly over Zoom to discuss various ideas on improving policing in communities, especially communities of color. Each group is chaired by a city commissioner and has members from the community, the police department, the Community Police Council, and experts on the criminal justice system.

Mateo’s group came up with 24 recommendations. However, none of those recommendations have been implemented.

“They said we're going to meet for six to nine months and put together a report with recommendations,” Mateo said. “And then we were going to disband. And I'm like, that sounds like talking. That does not sound like action.”

On the city’s website, it says that the commission has 30 days to either accept, deny or ask for more information. Once they’ve accepted the recommendation, the commission directs the city manager and the police department on how to move forward.

This infographic explains the recommendation process. Each working group comes up with a policy recommendation and then submits it to the city commission, who will either accept, deny or request further information about it. Once the commission has accepted the recommendation, they will direct the city manager and police department on how to implement it.
Dayton City Commission

However, Mateo has spent the past several months repeatedly pushing the city to be more transparent with the public on how decisions are made. Some decisions are made without everyone’s approval. Others have taken much longer than the required 30 days to review.

He points out that the city commission is a public body made up of commissioners and a mayor, and that they should be sharing their process publicly.

“That hasn't happened," Mateo said. "That's not what has happened at all. But that's what they are saying is happening.”

One recommendation called for the police to hold on to records of use of force violations for longer. The current policy calls for keeping those records for four years. The new recommendation would extend that to 10.

However, this recommendation was sent back to the commission for “further review,” without any explanation as to why or when it might be accepted.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley takes issue with criticism that the city hasn’t been transparent about the process. Police reform can be slow and complicated — and it involves a lot of different moving parts and budgeting decisions.

“There is all this other embedded work happening and the work is going on in all the departments," Whaley said. "I don't think it is a fair representation of what's really happening in the city.”

And, she said, there are other priorities and demands on the city’s almost $200 million budget.

“I think probably if you ask me what most citizens are worried about," Whaley says, "they're worried about the direct city services, like police, fire, like public works that are going to be slower this time because this budget didn't have the funding to do that.”

Critics of the police reform process point to another significant budget cut: The Human Relations Council. More than 450 people signed a petition last month to protest the cuts to the HRC.

However, the HRCs funding was reduced by almost 20 percent — one of the biggest cuts across all city departments.

near the entrance to U.S. 35.
Leila Goldstein
Police officers put on gas masks near the entrance of U.S. 35 on May 30 before using tear gas and pepper balls on a crowd protesting racial injustice.

During a city commission meeting in late February, city budget director Dianne Shannon said the city had to make cuts across the board, not just to the HRC, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Out of 21 departments, 18 departments experienced decreases, and three departments experienced increases,” Shannon said.

in 2020, the police department was one of only three three departments that saw an increase. Its budget went up by $1.5 million. It’s unclear whether any of that new money will be put toward implementing the groups’ recommendations.

Mateo says the process has been frustrating — and he plans to continue meeting with his group after they disband.

“I think there are a lot of good things from this process, and I also think that it is not going to have that level of impact that it could have been done more intentionally to transform things,” Mateo said. “But I don't think the people who are doing it want to transform things.”

The groups will disband April 1. The city is now putting together an implementation committee that will meet from April to November.

CORRECTION - Friday, April 2, 2021: The headline and text of this story have been revised to reflect the following clarifications and corrections:

Dayton's police reform working groups have submitted 142 recommendations, not 90. The city posted an additional 45 recommendations to its website after the initial airing of this story, and another seven in the days after.

During our interviews in preparation for this story, a contractor for the city working on police reform told us that body cameras for police officers were the only program that had been implemented by March 30, and that a dedicated police recruiting unit was still in development. A spokesperson for the Dayton mayor's office says the recruitment unit has been established, but the new body cameras have not yet been delivered by the supplier. The spokesperson says many other recommendations have been accepted and are in the process of implementation.

The Dayton Police Department was one of only three city departments to see a budget increase in 2020. In the budget presentation given back in February, the Police Department was expected to have a 1.5% decrease from its final revised 2020 budget. The current 2021 Dayton Police budget is $58,873,115, about 6% more than 2020.

Mawa Iqbal is a reporter for WYSO. Before coming to WYSO, she interned at Kansas City PBS's digital magazine, Flatland. There, her reporting focused on higher education and immigrant communities in the Kansas City area. She studied radio journalism at Mizzou, where she also worked for their local NPR-affiliate station as a reporter.