YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – It was a give-and-take Tuesday evening between a large contingent of the area’s police chiefs and about 200 members of the Valley’s Black community. Some of the questions for law enforcement had an edge to them — the audience wanted answers. And they got them, though it wasn’t always an answer they wanted.
At Youngstown’s New Bethel Baptist Church, the law enforcement leaders sat in front of those who gathered as moderators asked them questions.
The topic of racial profiling had some of the evening’s most emotional discussion from both sides.
“When you are demeaned as a citizen, when you are degraded in front of your community, that goes on and on with you,” said Keith Logan, one of the moderators.
The Ohio State Highway Patrol logs the race of every person who is pulled over. There’s a median number that raises red flags.
“If [troopers] fall outside of those categories, then there’s discipline and they have to be retrained,” Lt. Brad Bucey said.
“Race has no business in law enforcement,” said Mill Creek Park Police Chief Jim Willock. “If you make any decision based on race, you should not be in this field.”
“I mean, we’re all up here and we deal with this consistently so the policies you guys say you have in place, they’re not working,” said Bryant Youngblood, a moderator.
Lt. Bucey suggested teaching what should be done when being stopped by an officer or trooper.
“We’re scared to death just as much as the next person,” he said. “I worked 14 years on midnights and when you approach a car, and it’s dark and you have no idea what’s in that car, what’s the officer thinking? Do you think he’s anxious?”
Before Maurice Jiles led the discussion on body cameras, which can be expensive, he wanted to talk about why he didn’t remove his baseball cap.
“It’s not a sign of disrespect but I want you to know that we were invited here. So as I engage with them, I want them to see a true representation of what they have to deal with on a daily basis,” Jiles said.
The town hall also covered the idea of creating a citizens review board to deal with police complaints, but Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene said that could be difficult.
“It will be a very difficult move to have a union agree to allow a citizenry committee come in and either review or make a decision.”
The event was sponsored by Next Steps Coalition of Clergy and Community Leaders. Another meeting about policing is planned for July 28, but the details haven’t been decided.
Editor’s note: This story has been changed to show the correct name of Mill Creek Park’s police chief. We’re sorry for the mistake.