Improving policing, security in Akron requires everyone’s help

(This op-ed represents the collective view of the Akron Beacon Journal editorial board, which includes three editors and four community members.)

The community conversation Akron desperately needs finally began on a sunny Saturday eight days ago at a downtown church.

The mayor, his police chief and a lieutenant were joined by scores of black pastors and about 150 people for three hours of intense questioning from residents reeling from the fatal June 27 police shooting of Jayland Walker. Those who remained heard informative and impassioned responses and sage advice from those who clearly understood the moment Akron faced.

Hosted by Love Akron and Burning Bush Church, the forum marked the first time city leaders have faced real questions in a town hall meeting since eight Akron officers shot Walker 46 times, triggering weeks of protests and demands for police accountability.

Cops + Community:Discussion between community and Akron police exposes suspicions, but seen as first step

Some of the most insightful comments came from Pastor Michael Murphy of the Prevail Church, who said he had the “privilege” of meeting around 30 Akron officers shortly after Walker’s shooting, describing her as the “most impactful” meeting he’s ever had. attended. “Tears…were shed,” he said.

“You have to understand that behind this uniform is a person. He’s a neighbor. He’s an uncle. He’s a friend,” he said. “I think sometimes we lose sight of the humanity of the officers. No one in this room is perfect.”

Murphy fears Akron is at a tipping point where it could slide further into the chaos and violence seen in some major US cities.

“The people who are in this room aren’t the problem. It’s the people who aren’t there,” Murphy said, while describing the challenge parents face in framing children in the violent gun culture. fire today.

The humanity of several officers facilitated the conversation. We were delighted to see several of them voluntarily offer up important and often never-before-seen information about how they approach their jobs, how body cameras work, and why officers often find themselves in dangerous situations.

A 27-year-old veteran described how Akron has changed since being raised here, telling the audience he thinks many parents in Akron are “afraid of their children”.

“You have kids in these households with guns, and the parents don’t want to see them go to jail,” Officer Jeffrey Ludle said. “But they don’t want the gun in their house either. But they won’t say anything.”

Stressing that it “takes two people to defuse”, a young officer told the crowd that he sees himself as a problem solver with limited information when he arrives on the scene. People often lie to officers and uninvolved parties insert themselves into situations where officers are trying to create a safe space for everyone, he said.

While some critics may scoff at those comments, the collective voice of officers — not just police or union leaders — must be heard for Akron to move forward successfully.

Previous editorialWhy We’re Challenging Akron’s Increasingly Secretive Police Department

As Pastor Bryndon Glass of SPAN Ministries said, everyone must also be prepared to have their beliefs challenged, whether they lean towards supporting a community or police narrative.

“Are you willing to allow this narrative to change a bit?” He asked. “If you’re not willing to let this narrative change, you’re here for the wrong reasons. … Without that, we’re not going to fix it.”

He’s right, though that doesn’t excuse Police Chief Steve Mylett for his promises to improve policing and build bridges to the community.

Mylett can only succeed if our entire community is actively involved in shaping the future of policing in Akron while addressing the enormous problem of gun violence that often places officers in dangerous situations where events can escalate into a direction no one wants.

If you want to be part of the solution, we invite you to watch some of the recording at the top of this editorial. Keep your humanity in mind and allow your perceptions to be challenged for the good of your community.

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