The Yellow Springs Village Council has delayed making a decision on whether to keep one of its police officers on the Greene County Agencies for Combined Enforcement Task Force.
The council plans to vote on the issue Dec. 7 which would allow it more time to gather information and allow residents additional time to share their thoughts and concerns, said Yellow Springs Village Council President Karen Wintrow.
“We have heard from a more limited demographic of the community,” she said. “So we wanted to reach out to more people. We just didn’t see a downside to holding the vote till the next meeting.”
The council vote next month will come after a year of discussions on the issue. Several residents have come forward during public meetings and have asked the council to withdraw the village officer from the task force, which mostly focuses on drug-related and other felony crimes.
The village officer is one of 13 law enforcement officers from agencies around the county assigned to the ACE Task Force. Other participating agencies include the Beavercreek, Fairborn, Sugar Creek Twp. and Xenia police departments, as well as the Greene County Sheriff’s Office.
The task force is funded through grants, but, each participating jurisdiction is required to annually pay $10,500 to the organization to help cover the cost of local match funds required by some grants.
During an interview on Sunday, Yellow Springs Village Councilman Brian Housh said he had not made a decision on how he would vote.
“I will make a decision about our participation on the ACE task force that is in line with village values related to local policing,” he said.
Several people, including residents, the police chief, a village officer and former task force members and council members have submitted letters to the council on the issue, according to village documents.
In an Oct. 31 email, resident Kirsten Skaggs told the council she was “horrified by the drug trafficking” in the village.
“If council decides to discontinue participation in the ACE Task Force, it is my hope that it is because there is a better way to disrupt this violent, destructive business that will be immediately implemented,” Skaggs wrote. “If no better option currently exists, I urge you to vote that Yellow Springs remains a part of the task force.”
Skaggs wrote she has seen the impact drug addiction can have on a person’s life. She knows two people who have died from heroin overdoses, and several years ago, a member of her family was a crack cocaine addict before leaving the village to get treatment.
Yellow Springs Police Chief David Hale said the issue comes down to one question.
“For me, it is an easy question,” he wrote in an undated letter. “In dealing with the laws of the State of Ohio and where those laws stand today, does law enforcement in Yellow Springs continue to be as much of a presence to deter crime, including drug crimes and the related property crimes that come with drug abuse and addiction as possible? I predict that failure to do so will make the community and its residents less safe and less secure.”
Some residents have associated the county task force with the nation’s war on drugs — an effort that they say is ineffective and has failed to address the drug addiction issue in United States.
“The ACE Task Force continues to criminalize small time drug offenders and disproportionately put those with black and brown skin in a cell,” wrote Carter Collins, a Yellow Springs resident and Antioch College student, in a Nov. 12 email addressed to council members. “We should not be funding this organization with our police labor to fight a war on drugs. We should be putting the money forward to treat those with addiction to chemical substances instead of ostracizing them from our community.”