Police Abuse and Accountability; Contrast and Compare

Opinion: Contrasting two police departments in Greene County
BCPD Officers Charging to Arrest

True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great

The pen is mightier than the sword. - Richelieu 

Police activities have been in the news a lot in the recent days, especially the activities of local police departments here in the Dayton area.  Beavercreek Police have put on a show force during two recent protests, but how does their professionalism and activities contrast with other local officers?

On a personal level, most of the interactions I have had with Beavercreek PD (BCPD) officers have been negative.  Chief Dennis Evers, the BCPD chief is a very likeable individual.  The few times I had a chance to speak with him personally and off the record, he displayed a human side that is likeable.  He has a great sense of humor and I believe he genuinely hates “bad cops.”  I also believe he has attempted to deal with the fallout from the shooting of John Crawford in a realistic way although ultimately, as the police chief, he has to carry the responsibility and deal with the repercussions and fallout of the shooting.  Unfortunately, not much has been done in terms of holding responsible the parties involved in the shooting.

The reason why Sean Williams is still employed as a police officer in Beavercreek is not entirely a mystery.  I am not naïve enough to believe that his firing is solely in the power of chief Evers.  Any one of us would love to be a fly on the wall in some of the police union meetings discussing the future employment of Williams and his fate.  Political strings are pulled, his father (who is also employed byBCPD) pulls his weight, the union lawyers get involved, favors are called upon and surely enough, nothing happens and nobody is held responsible.  Evers could hardly be held responsible for the fiasco, but at the same time, he cannot fully be left off the hook either.

He has some loose cannons working on his force, and whether he likes it or not, it is what was put on display during the last two local protests.  During the protest at Walmart, BCPD officers harassed and escalated the confrontation with protesters.  Worse, they ordered protesters to leave Walmart property and as they were obeying police orders and leaving, they started arresting them!  The strategy seems to have been to pick those with a bullhorn and those most active in the crowd to be arrested and charged with trespassing.  This escalated the situation causing the large group to become angry, delaying them from leaving the property.

The same tactic was used during the Fairfield Mall protest.  While I disagree with using the Mall as a venue to protest events that did not take place there, I observed BCPD officers again escalating an otherwise very peaceful situation.  Their officers trapped over a hundred people, including protesters, journalists and shoppers with small children (unrelated to the protest) into a small area.  Those of us who informed them that we wanted to get out of the area and leave were told “we don’t care” and were pushed into the North East entrance doors of the Mall.  Worse, as protesters were leaving, BCPD again started assaulting them and arresting those who were vocally calling out for justice. 

An older woman who is a retired law professor from the University of Dayton was pushed down and then ordered to stand up so she could be handcuffed.  Because of her age she could not, and BCPD officers were attempting to drag her on the pavement.  Another man was being dragged on the pavement by his arms.  A fourteen year old who was taking pictures was in the process of being arrested for crossing some undefined imaginary line in the pavement, however his father intervened and helped BCPD save face. 

While I was clearly present as a journalist (and not a protester) and was displaying my press badge, I was also arrested and while I cooperated with the officers at every step, they still attempted to break my left wrist and put on plastic cuffs very tightly around my wrists, searching my backpack without my consent and without a warrant.  Worse, most of the BCPD officers involved in these activities removed their nametags so it was difficult to identify them.  The one cuffing me was pulling on my cuffs while I was standing still and not resisting, causing the sharp edges to cut into my wrists.

BCPD has displayed in both cases a lack of professionalism and an eagerness to escalate an otherwise peaceful situation, making unnecessary arrests and unnecessarily threatening individuals.  This is a clear attempt to intimidate and discourage any future attempts at disrupting the status quo.

Now, let us contrast BCPD with the Greene County Sheriff’s Department (GCSD), a department that I have also had numerous interactions with. Every time I interacted with Sheriff Gene Fischer or any of his deputies, it has been a pleasing and professional experience.  Every time I interacted, whether as a journalist or off the record, Greene County Sheriff’s Department deputies were professional, respectful and accountable for their actions.

Greene County Sheriff’s Department had its own fiasco to deal with in 2013, when Paul Schenck, a resident of Yellow Springs was killed by a sniper during an armed standoff.  During a subsequent investigation, Sheriff Gene Fischer exposed and found serious problems with how the shooting was handled by his second in command, Eric Spicer.  Spicer, who could not qualify with a rifle at the range, shot at several random houses with scared families and children inside, attempted to enter several houses illegally and even called in a search helicopter to look for Paul Schenck in a nearby field.  Sheriff Fischer suspended Eric Spicer after his incompetence was exposed.  Furthermore, he fired Eric Spicer once more illegalities were discovered, such as the alleged falsification of a signature to illegally obtain an automatic assault rifle.

Unlike the Beavercreek City police officers that display thuggish attitudes and get away with killing peaceful unarmed individuals, Sheriff Fischer did not hesitate to both fire an incompetent deputy, but also prosecute him for criminal behavior.  As a result, his department appears to employ officers who are respectful of my rights as a journalist, competent to do their jobs and not quick to kick in skulls and break legs (or wrists in my case).  All his deputies I have interacted with are extremely professional, call me by name, respond to my questions and display a genuinely human side to their uniform.

So why contrast these two departments?  Because unless BCPD is willing to learn from their mistakes and from the successes of others, they will not become a police department that anyone wants to deal with or respect.  How can a BCPD officer be respected when responding sarcastically, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” to the question, “Why did your department kill John Crawford when he was peaceful?”  (the response was exagerrated, sarcastic and with a huge smile or smirk on his face)

The most troubling issue is that BCPD officers seem to believe that threatening and arresting journalists will make this problem go away.  How they can believe this is not clear, as it will only motivate me to dig in deeper and study their actions even harder.  And while they may have their guns, badges and uniforms, I have the pen.  And the pen is not mightier than the sword just in Richelieu, but also in Beavercreek, Ohio. 

Editorial note: The BVPD acronym for Beavercreek Police Department was replaced with the colloquialism BCPD used locally by this department.

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