Dayton Gets Real: Community leaders, law enforcement reflect on policing, reforms on anniversary of George Floyd’s death

DAYTON — Tuesday marks the one-year anniversary of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.

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In the year since Floyd’s death, protests and rallies turned to calls for justice and reforms across the country and here in the Miami Valley. News Center 7′s Mike Campbell spoke with community activists and law enforcement agencies on what’s been done and what still needs to be completed for better and safer policing.

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Michael Wright, a prominent Dayton area civil rights and defense lawyer said some attitudes changed immediately after Floyd’s death but for larger institutions the changes are not as noticeable. Wright added he believes the legal system and police departments haven’t moved fast enough to implement the reforms he feels are necessary.

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“I think the legal system has a lot of work to do. I think policing is biased when it comes to black and brown people and I hope there will be systemic changes,” Wright told Campbell Tuesday.

In response to Floyd’s death and the calls for police reform, the City of Dayton began a reform process and is now working to implement almost 140 community-recommended reforms. A move Wright said he’s happy to see.

But as community activists point out, reforms and promises for reforms have not stopped fatal interactions involving police and minorities.

“Sometimes it just feels thankless...so are we making progress? Potentially, its going to take years to find out,” Ari Divine, founder of the Solution Movement told Campbell.

Campbell sat down with the leaders of the two largest law enforcement agencies in the region, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl and Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck, about the changes in policing following Floyd’s death. Biehl said Floyd’s murder forced every department to take a closer look at how they do things.

“We need to acknowledge what is a problem, what is wrong in policing, what needs to be corrected, at the same time, we do not need to vilify the entire profession of policing,” Biehl said.

Streck said his department has worked on de-escalation tactics especially in handing of crisis situations. The sheriff’s office has established crisis intervention teams and will train every deputy in that area.

“That’s a great de-escalation technique, is if you have someone there trained in how to deal with someone in crisis,” Streck said.

Additionally, the sheriff’s office has strengthened their “Duty To Intervene” policy for deputies.

“That means if you see something, you need to stop it and get them away from what’s going on,” he said.

Both Streck and and Biehl agree on challenges that still need to be met, with community help, especially the recruiting of minorities as new officers and deputies.

“The community wants law enforcement to mirror their community,” Streck said.

“The community has to do a lift and certainly encourage people to become Dayton Police officers,” Biehl said.

Both leaders said their departments will need to keep making changes and need to become, and remain, true partners with the communities they serve to ensure better and safer policing.