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The Tallmadge Police Department was evaluated recently with the aim of being certified for a series of police-community standards that have been established by a state law enforcement board.
Police Chief Ron Williams says the board's mission "is to improve community-police relations." The panel, known as the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, was created through an executive order signed by Governor John Kasich in December 2014 "following some high profile incidents," Williams says. For the first time in state history, minimum standards were established on areas including the use of force, the use of deadly force, and hiring and recruitment. In order to be accredited by the collaborative, Williams says departments must have policies in place incorporating the minimum standards and then provide proof they're being disseminated through training and pass an on-site inspection. Last month the Tallmadge Police Department attained provisional certification from the collaborative, Williams says, and is now awaiting final certification.
Regarding the use of force, Williams says the policies the Tallmadge Police Department already had in place "exceeded" the standards which have been promulgated by the collaborative. For instance, the TPD already has a designated sergeant who reviews every instance of a use of force or vehicle pursuit in the city. The sergeants gather all the relevant information -- radio tapes, witness statements, any video -- and compare it to policy and make sure the officer acted within policy, the police chief says.
Regarding the collaborative's recommendations on police recruitment and hiring, Williams says the Tallmadge Police Department has two African American auxiliary officers, it has no full-time officers who are African American. Since African Americans make up approximately 4 percent of the city's population, the collaborative has asked the TPD to be aware "our makeup doesn't exactly match the population that we serve;" however, it hasn't mandated any changes, Williams reports.
More than 500 law enforcement agencies in the state are in the process of implementing Ohio's new standards to improve community-police relations, according to a report issued last month by the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services.
While the certification is voluntary, Williams says he believes it is beneficial. "There are communities in Ohio that have had problems so we're being proactive as far as our end of it goes. They're standardizing the standards," Williams reports, "so that if a police officer does something in Tallmadge, he's on the same level with an officer in Brimfield or an officer in Akron Akron's going to have many more incidents than we are, but when we have those incidents we will be held to the same standards -- we will handle our incidents within the same framework that they will handle their incidents within."
Twitter: @ EllinWalsh_RPC