Independent review board: Dayton Police officers’ actions ‘not justified or proper’ in encounter with disabled man

DAYTON — Dayton Police officers did not act appropriately in their encounter with a disabled man in November, according to an independent civilian board tasked with reviewing the officers’ actions.

The ruling follows a Nov. 8 Dayton Police encounter with Jack Runser at the intersection of Gettysburg Avenue and Germantown in Dayton, near Dollar General. Runser, who is deaf, and has cerebral palsy, said he was on his way to the store that afternoon when police stopped him.

Runser, speaking by sign language through an interpreter at a news conference Saturday afternoon, said he initially tried to sign to police that he was deaf, but said officers did not seem to understand.

“I ended up handcuffed,” Runser said. “I was taken to the hospital.”

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Runser said once at Miami Valley Hospital, it was only after a doctor recognized him and cleared up the apparent confusion, he was released – but not taken home by police, he said – the doctor instead paid for his cab ride.

“I was afraid,” he said. “I’d heard other deaf people have had experiences like this, but it’s never happened to me before.”

According to the director of Dayton’s Human Relations Council, Dayton Police conducted its own investigation of the encounter, but did not find any wrongdoing.

However, she said the independent Citizen Appeal Board “held that they did not concur with the results of the police investigation which exonerated the officers of wrongdoing.” The board determined Runser’s complaint “should have been sustained, meaning the investigation and appeal disclosed evidence” indicating the officers’ actions “were not justified or proper.”

The Dayton Unit NAACP, which hosted Saturday’s news conference, has taken Rusner on as a client and pledges justice.

“Shameful,” chapter president Derrick Foward said of the November encounter. “Can you imagine how he felt? Being deaf…not knowing what is happening with these police officers. Then being handcuffed. Being taken to the hospital. And evaluated for some type of narcotics.”

Foward points to Rusner’s case as a prime example of the need for continued police reform efforts …and to the Citizen Review Board’s ruling as an example of the need for precisely those types of independent review bodies.

“Their decision in this particular case, I feel, was very valid,” Foward said.

In a statement released to the I-Team Saturday, Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said as soon as his department learned of an appeal and hearing of the Citizens’ Appeal Board in this case, he directed DPD command staff to “devise training to ensure we respond appropriately to various special needs populations,” and forwarded additional training resources to officers.

Biehl promised to “examine” the Citizens’ Appeal Board recommendations once released.

The Human Relations Council told the I-Team Saturday, it is currently working on those recommendations, and will release them to the Dayton Police Department, City Commission, and City Manager’s office.

As for Rusner, he said he still deals with lasting impacts from that day in November, due to the handcuffs.

“My hand was broken and I’ve got permanent damage in one of my hands now,” he said.

Rusner announced he plans to hire an attorney, and would like an apology.

“But,” he said, “I’d like justice more than that.”

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