Crime And Law

Chief: Investigation concludes Dayton officers followed policy during controversial traffic stop

DAYTON — A Dayton police internal investigation found the actions of Dayton officers during a controversial traffic stop, specifically with the use of force and stop itself, were not in violation of department policy at the time of the stop, according to Dayton Police Chief Kamran Afzal.

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The investigation looked into the officers’ actions during the initial traffic stop, request for K-9 officer “free air sniff” for suspected drugs, and the level of use of force to take Clifford Owensby into custody, Afzal said. The findings of those parts of the investigation were found to be in line with trainings and policies at the time of the stop.

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Police stopped Owensby during an Sept. 30 investigation of a suspected drug house on West Grand Avenue after officers said they saw the car leave the house.

Body camera video obtained through a public records request by News Center 7 showed officers asking Owensby to exit his car so that K-9 officers could safely conduct an “air-sniff” search. Owensby said he could not because he was paraplegic.

Owensby refused the officers’ offer to assist him out of his car.

“No you’re not. No you’re not. You’re not going to touch me,” the video shows, Owensby said.

Officers then forcibly removed Owensby from the car, handcuffed him and drug him into a police cruiser.

However the investigation did find two officers, Wayne Hammock and Vincent Carter were in violations of some department policies and executive orders.

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Both officers were found in violation of the department’s policies with body-worn cameras and involved moments where the cameras were inappropriately muted during recording, Afzal said. The policy violation involving the incorrect muting of the body cameras came after Owensby had been placed in the back of a police cruiser.

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Hammock was also found in violation of the department’s standards for making a comment deemed “inappropriate” to another officer after the traffic stop, Afzal said.

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Both officers received a training memorandum for the violations including on the department’s policy for body-worn cameras but additional punishments were not made. The memo contained details on what the officers violated, why they violated it, and what they need to do to correct it, Afzal said. The findings of the investigation will not require any types of suspensions or loss of pay.

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“I know this incident has prompted an emotional response from all involved, however my job is to look at the actions of the officers based on facts, policies and training in place at the time of each incident.”

Afzal said the incident and internal investigation led to some changes within the department:

  • Policy within the department has been amended with a section called “physical disabilities consideration” related to the arrest and transportation of individuals with disabilities and the assistance they might require, Afzal said.
  • Department-wide training on the Americans with Disabilities Act scheduled for February
  • New position created within the department, staffed by an attorney, to monitor the department’s ADA compliance
  • Afzal requested a comprehensive review of all department policies and trainings related to this incident by the city’s law department, training academy, and the newly-created department that will handle ADA compliance. The review is expected to lead to additional policy and training changes within the department.

Afzal said as the new Dayton Police Chief he promised the community the department will continue to look at ways to improve training, continuing education, and build trust within the community. Afzal added his goals won’t be achieved in a day but

“My work will center on building community relationships by listening to community concerns and utilizing the skills of our officers and supervisors to help solve those issues,” Afzal said.

Afzal said he expects some changes to department policy will come from the department’s review.

“Policies do change and evolve over time when we see an issue I will take a look at it,” Afzal said.

One of the demands from community leaders after the stop was an apology issued by Dayton police and the officers involved. Afzal stopped short of issuing an official apology on behalf of the department but said he feels bad for all parties involved, including the child that was inside Owensby’s car during the traffic stop.

“It’s not a matter of giving an apology. I’ll say I always feel bad when somebody doesn’t have a positive impact with us. Our jobs are very difficult as it is, its not a matter of saying you’re sorry or not sorry. I always feel bad when we have to take action based on someone else’s action that results in a negative consequence,” Afzal said.

“I’m sad there’s such a negative connotation associated with the city, not just the police department. It’s not a matter of apologizing to an individual. I feel bad for the child, I feel bad for Mr. Owensby, I feel bad for my officers who had to go through months and months being put under the microscope on a case where they were following training that we have given them,” Afzal said.

Dayton Mayor Jeffery Mims Jr. issued a statement after the department’s press conference, saying the incident involving police and Owensby “fell short” of standards.

“All Dayton residents should feel that they are treated with dignity and respect, and I know that the incident between Clifford Owensby and Dayton Police fell short of that standard. It fell below my expectations as well,” Mims said in an emailed statement.

Mims cited DPD’s Professional Standards Bureau and Afzal’s recommendations, as well as police reform work within City Commission, as signs that changes are being implemented.

“We can do better, and I am committed to continuing that work in Dayton and working to strengthen the community-police relationship. I remain optimistic that we are on the path to creating the right conditions to build a stronger community relationship with Dayton Police. This relationship is critical for our city, and is one that I and my colleagues are committed to continue to address,” Mims said.

The Dayton Unit NAACP, who has represented Owensby, called a news conference to issue a response to the department’s finding calling today a “sad day in American history, more specifically in Dayton history.”

Dr. Derrick Foward, President of the Dayton NAACP said the officers were “exonerated” of any wrong doing.

“While that is not surprising to know that was going to be the outcome, but its still a travesty and a miscarriage of justice,” Foward said. “This should have been handled under the previous administration of the DPD.”

Foward credited Afzal for his handling of the investigation and recommendations but said previous action and recommendations from other events could have prevented the use of force incident involving Owensby.

Foward said Owensby was compliant four times before he was forcibly removed from his car, when he stopped for the officers, when asked to roll the window down, when officers asked to check his window tint, and when he was asked to turn his vehicle off.

Foward noted while any possible criminal charges will not come he cited the civil lawsuit that’s been filed and “the attorneys will address that in the coming days.”

Foward was asked if Owensby’s civil rights were violated and said “absolutely.” He explained by saying the reason for the stop, a suspected drug investigation, but drugs were not found in his car. Foward said there was no reason for Owensby to be stopped in the first place.

Owensby was not notified by the department in advance of Afzal’s press conference Tuesday morning releasing the findings of the internal investigation, Foward said.

Owensby was charged with two misdemeanor traffic charges of violation of window tint and violation of a child restraint seat. He was found guilty on both counts and was ordered to pay a fine of $150 for each count.

Previously, leaders of the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police have defended the officer’s actions, previously saying the officers “followed the law, their training and departmental policies and procedures.”

“Police officers do not want to be put in these types of situations, but when people repeatedly refuse to cooperate regardless of their circumstances, officers can’t just walk away and drop it, because a suspect doesn’t want to be searched or arrested,” Dayton FOP Vice President Derric McDonald said in a video posted in October 2021.

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