City shares Bexley Police Department report, seeks comment

CHRIS BOURNEA
editorial@thisweeknews.com
ThisWeek group

As part of an ongoing effort by the city of Bexley to increase transparency in its operations, particularly in policing, the city is seeking residents' input on the new Bexley Police Department Community Policing Report.

Mayor Ben Kessler said the report coincides with the formation of a citizen-review advisory board in June and the hiring last month of two complaint liaisons.

"In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the very legitimate questions around policing and justice that have been raised, we've been asked a lot of questions about our use-of-force statistics, recruitment and training practices, complaint statistics, traffic stop demographics, community-policing initiatives" and other issues, Kessler said in an email.

"Earlier this summer, we committed to compiling a comprehensive report to the community that would provide information on these topics and other data and statistics that we felt would be of interest to the community."

Kessler said he worked with Bexley police Chief Larry Rinehart and other department officials and the city's communications manager, Sam Metcalf, to compile the community policing report. It covers a variety of police policies and procedures, including diversity in recruitment and retention, training, traffic-stop demographics, arrest data and use-of-force statistics.

"Use of force is defined as effort required by police to compel compliance by an unwilling subject," the report said. "Bexley police officers are trained in use-of-force-continuum strategies, and none of the use-of-force incidents involved the discharge of a firearm (or) Taser, or the use of any force beyond physical restraint."

The report said the police department complies with the "8 Can't Wait" strategies recommended by national police-reform organization Campaign Zero: banning chokeholds; requiring deescalation; requiring a warning before shooting; exhausting all other means before shooting; requiring officers to intervene to prevent a fellow officer from using excessive force; banning shooting at moving vehicles; requiring a use-of-force continuum; and requiring comprehensive reporting on arrests and other incidents.

The report said Bexley police engaged in six use-of-force incidents in 2019: two physical restraints while resisting arrest, one physical restraint to prevent property damage, one physical restraint while a suspect assaulted an officer, one physical restraint to enforce a warrant for operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and one physical restraint after a suspect failed to comply with an officer's instructions.

The report is being posted to the city's website in sections, rather than one large document all at once, Kessler said.

"Our decision to release in sections was made in order to get information out sooner and also to break the report into smaller, bite-size chunks so that it would be more accessible and not as likely to produce information overload," Kessler said.

Kessler said the city is asking residents to provide feedback about the report at bexley.org/policereport.

The city also will seek residents' input during a virtual town-hall meeting with officers of the Bexley Minority Parents Alliance at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 17. Details are available at bexley.org.

BMPA president Bryan Drewry, who also is a member of the new citizen-review advisory board, said the community policing report will enable residents to look at hard data to engage with city and police department officials on social-justice issues, rather than relying on rumors or perceptions.

"Most other suburbs have some kind of police report. It helps, just having that transparency," Drewry said. "As we have ongoing discussions, we have this information."

City officials will make edits or additions to the report based on residents' feedback.

"We'll be releasing a final, complete report in the fall," Kessler said.

For more information, go to bexley.org.

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