AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – For the first time since eight Akron police officers were cleared of criminal charges in the death of Jayland Walker, a group of citizens appointed to oversee the police department met.
The Akron Citizen’s Police Oversight Board gathered to outline its priorities and allow citizens to comment about alleged police wrongdoing.
This is only the board’s second meeting since nine members were seated earlier this month — the first since the decision not to indict the officers.
The Akron Citizen’s Police Oversight Board was voted in by residents last October because of community outrage over the police-involved shooting death of Walker.
“The sorts of things we see in fascist regimes is happening in our beloved hometown of Akron, Ohio,” said Akron resident Ben Holda.
Holda is one of two people to speak out at Wednesday evening’s meeting.
“You may or may not know that when protesters leave events, leave actions, they are picked off one by one by the police as they go to their homes,” said Holda.
Holda expressed disturbing allegations that he wants the board to investigate.
Many relate to protests that began last week after a grand jury declined to file criminal charges against the eight officers in last June’s shooting death of Walker.
“The police started pepper-spraying people before any water bottles were thrown… people’s cars are being impounded and they’re being harassed when they go to un-impound them and again, this is for relatively speaking, minor violations of traffic law,” said Holda.
“I’m sure there’s going to be things that we’re going to look at, maybe question and begin to say ‘Hey, these are maybe some policies that we need to look to adjust,'” said board chairman Kemp Boyd.
Boyd says citizen complaints like Holda’s will be reviewed by an independent police auditor, Phil Young, who is an employee of the oversight board.
“I’ve also been more active recently and I do feel like there’s some definite retaliation from the police with the protesters,” said the other Akron resident who spoke out at the meeting.
Although the officers were cleared criminally, the Akron police chief still must determine whether they broke any departmental policies in Walker’s death.
Boyd says the oversight board will have some role in that process, but he is not sure how much.
“The chief, when he had his press conference last week, he talked about how they’re going to do an internal investigation and then it will be turned over to the independent auditor to also review, so him being our employee, we’ll be able to assess some of that as well, alongside of him,” said Boyd.
One woman who spoke says the only way she knew Wednesday evening’s meeting was happening was because she saw it on social media. She felt the board should do a better job of advertising when their meetings will be held.
The oversight board’s job is to make recommendations based on some of the policies and then submit that to Akron City Council.
FOX 8 reached out to the Akron Police Department about some of the allegations made.
Akron police responded saying, “In general, officers conduct traffic stops in a manner that considers the totality of the circumstances, the surroundings, and where safe to do so. Tactics and situational factors are considered during traffic stops, certainly, those that are or become tense.
Individuals have been stopped for traffic violations, including reckless operation of motor vehicles on the roadway.
The criteria and related procedures guide and inform officers when a vehicle is towed, such as the driver not having a license, the driver being arrested, and several other factors.”
“As you know, no one piece of video, BWC footage, or recording captures an entire incident.”
“Please consider the full context of the matter. We are mindful and respectful of the community’s concerns and are committed to sitting down with individuals and community leaders and listening wherever opportunities arise.”