Dayton police conducting training to help respond to calls involving people with disabilities

DAYTON — The Dayton Police Department is putting every officer through updated training on how to interact with people with disabilities. The updated training comes after two high-profile interactions officers had with disabled men.

DPD leaders said this additional training to help officers deal more effectively with residents with disabilities was planned before the Clifford Owensby case, a case that put the department in the national spotlight.

Dayton officers stopped Owensby in September 2021 for excessively dark window tint after they said he left a known drug house. Officers decided to have a K-9 do an air sniff of the car and per the department’s policy, all occupants must be out of the car during the process.

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Owensby repeatedly told officers he could not get out due to his disability. Officers offered to help him out of the car multiple times, but he refused. Police ended up dragging him out of the car in a video that went viral. The arrest led to numerous protests of Owensby’s treatment.

An investigation into the traffic stop found that officer did not violate department policy in removing Owensby from the car.

In a separate incident, Jack Runser filed a complaint with the NAACP when officers responded to a concerned call about him. The officer ended up detaining Runser because they couldn’t effectively communicate with him due to his hearing loss and speech challenges brought on by his Cerebral Palsy.

An investigation into this incident found that officers did not act appropriately in their encounter with Runser.

The updated training that all officers are going through gives them information on the best practices in dealing with the people with disabilities that they meet. They’re also updating their knowledge of their legal obligations.

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“And other areas in some of those communities we can do a better job,” Lt. Matt Dickey, Dayton Police Training Bureau Commander, said.

Dickey said the training helps officers learn effective ways to help people in wheelchairs, people with autism and people with hearing challenges.

“It is also an area we thing is sensitive to the community that we should be doing a very, very good job in those areas,” Dickey said.

DPD said about 90 of the department’s 360 officers have completed the training so far. The rest of the officers are expected to finish it in the next month.