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Akron, Ohio: A Police State




Close your eyes and imagine you hear gunshots. Now imagine that you hear more;

imagine you hear nearly 100 gunshots, and when you open your eyes another young

Black man is lying dead at the hands of police.

Now, with your eyes wide open try to make sense out of what took place in city hall in

the last week. First, outgoing Police Chief Steve Mylett did what most reasonable

observers thought he would do: he officially cleared the eight – still unidentified --

Akron police officers who collectively fired 94 shots in the killing of Jayland Walker, an

unarmed Black man.

A few days later, the Akron City Council voted down a measure that would have given

the recently appointed Citizens Police Oversight Board authority to conduct

investigations into officer misconduct -- mostly in response to Walker’s killing.

These insensitive and unnecessary actions unequivocally reveal that Akron is fully

ensconced in a police state seemingly run by the whims of the police union, which

apparently strikes fear in the hearts of elected officials.

The so-called Akron Eight – Walker’s killers had previously been cleared of

wrongdoing in Walker’s death by a Summit County grand jury last spring.

Mylett, who at first suspended the eight officers with pay while the investigation was

still underway, then months later brought them back on desk duty, had maintained that

despite the grand jury’s inaction, he was still conducting an internal review to

determine if the officers had violated any APD policies.

And it appears that they had. Two officers who joined in the pursuit that preceded

Walker’s death had joined the chase without first getting an on-duty supervisor’s

permission as required by department rule. And neither of them activated their body-

worn cameras, also in violation of department policies.

As Walker was about to abandon his vehicle near Wilbeth Road and South Main

Street and flee on foot, another APD officer used his squad car to ram into the driver’s

door of Walker’s vehicle to prevent him from escaping, which also is against APD

policy.

Yet, Mylett, in his last-ditch act of homage to the Fraternal (dis)Order of Police Local

#7 before he leaves office, said in a wordy three-page statement that those violations

were forgivable for the officers who committed them.

Yet another APD officer used an extended capacity magazine in his weapon, allowing

him to carry six more round than normal, which also is a violation of department

policy.

“The officer said he was told by other members of the police department that it was

permissible to add an extension,” Mylett said in his statement. “The officer was

verbally counseled to pay closer attention when reloading his magazines.”

That kind of excuse couldn’t make it past my mother, who I can still hear saying, “If

your friends jump off the bridge, are you going to jump, too?”

Mylett went on to say that “no officer intentionally violated agency policies.”

Talk about a proverbial slap on the wrist. And haven’t we always been told that

ignorance of the law is no excuse? Since when does lack of “intention” excuse wrong

behavior?

Not to be outdone, Akron City Council quickly did its part to further the police state

when at the behest of the FOP and its lawyer, it voted down rules proposed by the

Citizens Police Oversight Board.

In a 9-4 vote, Council, despite calls to refer the matter for a legal opinion, rejected the

Oversight Board’s rules which would have given them authority to investigate police

misconduct – the very purpose of the City Charter that nearly 60% of Akron voters

passed last year creating the board.

Outgoing Councilman Russel Neal, and Mayor-elect Shammas Malik both called for

the city’s law department to review the matter before taking a vote, but their

recommendations fell on the deaf ears of the majority. At-large Councilwoman Linda

Omobien and outgoing Councilwoman Tara Mosley, also called for council to delay its

decision until receiving more information, but to no avail. Their voters were the only

one in opposition to rejecting the rules.

What’s sad is that all any councilmember had to do was make a motion to table, or to

formally ask for a legal opinion before voting. Representatives from the Law

Department stood by silently. Instead, Councilman Jeff Fusco continued to practice

law without a license by insisting that the FOP’s collective bargaining agreement is

more important the City Charter.

That can only be true in a police state.

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