Community council does soul-searching after viral Dayton police video

A controversial video posted on Facebook of Dayton police arresting two people caused some disagreement and soul-searching from a group tasked with improving relations between police and the community.

The Dayton Community Police Council needs the community’s trust and confidence to truly be a bridge between the community and police, according to its members. Those members said the council won’t be viewed as credible unless it effectively responds to the video, which has more than 210,000 views and triggered some outrage on social media.

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Dayton is a “powder keg” waiting to explode because of the current climate of unrest, feelings of disenfranchisement and growing anger about the upcoming downtown Dayton rally involving a group affiliated with the Ku Klux Klan, several council members said Thursday night.

The Community Police Council’s next steps to respond to the video and community concerns are extremely important , members said.

“It is OK for folks in the community to see that we are struggling with this conversation,” said Anne Pfeiffer, a council member. “This is hard stuff.”

The 84-second video, taken by a bystander, captures a Feb. 26 incident by the DeSoto Bass housing development in which a man in handcuffs can be seen shaking on the ground surrounded by several police officers.

A woman at the scene who was filming on her cell phone was arrested after being told multiple times by an officer to move back. Both face multiple misdemeanor criminal charges in Dayton Municipal Court.

The Community Police Council plans to have a public meeting to hear from citizens and provide a forum to share experiences and concerns. Earlier this month, the group promised to release a statement of facts and convene a community conversation about the video.

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During Thursday’s meeting, council members at first talked in general about how it should respond to incidents that threaten to harm community-police relations.

But the conversation soon became a deeper discussion about what the council needs to do to gain the community’s trust and address their concerns after the video went viral.

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein attended Thursday’s meeting. She said council members tackled difficult topics in a worthwhile way and urged them to have the same kind of conversation with the community.

“That 25-minute conversation you just had needs to be replicated in the community,” she said. “That’s where you’ll build understanding that will allow you to build relationships.”

Some community members feel the officer who arrested the woman who was filming at the scene “abused” his power by escalating a situation that didn’t need to be, which led to criminal charges against her, said Jared Grandy, community-police relations coordinator for the city of Dayton.

The incident has provoked strong responses from many people, which is an issue regardless of whether officers followed the law and department protocols, Grandy said.

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Police officials at the meeting said they would not specifically discuss the Feb. 26 incident, but they shared information about some their practices, policies and training related to use of force and scene security.

Officers are taught to treat people respectfully, and officers should always use the least amount of force possible during encounters with the public, said Lt. Col. Matt Carper, deputy director and assistant police chief.

But every situation is different, and the steps officers take to safely secure a scene are based on their knowledge, experience and training, Carper said, adding people need the facts before jumping to conclusions about police encounters.

“A lot of people look at a little clip of video, and they think they have all the facts necessary to form an informed opinion, and that’s just not the case,” Carper said.

The Dayton Police Department holds officers accountable when there are issues, said Lt. Col. Eric Henderson, assistant chief and chief of operations. But police have to deal with intense situations and “we’re not robots, we’re human,” Henderson said.

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Community members don’t understand what it’s like to be officers and be on the scene of a tense and potentially dangerous situation, but officers need to understand what it’s like to live in some of the areas they are policing, said Erica Fields, executive director of the Human Relations Council.

People are angry because they feel marginalized and disenfranchised, and the Facebook video touched a nerve, council members said.

Several council members said citizens aren’t robots either, and it’s not fair if officers can have emotions at a scene but citizens will be arrested and charged if they display them.

Some citizens had strong feelings and reactions to the video, and those emotions are in danger of erupting if community members’ concerns are not heard and addressed, said council member Dion Sampson.

The community is close to “exploding” because of the current climate and rising anger about the May 25 rally planned for downtown Dayton involving a KKK-affiliated group, Sampson said.

“Whether that young lady was right or wrong, the perception is she was violated,” he said. “How do we tell the community to wait for the facts? There’s a way to do it: how do we tell them?”

Grandy and Fields said it’s not enough to just listen to the community. They said citizens’ concerns need to be addressed through actions and changes.

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