(WKBN) – A group known as the Next Steps Coalition of the Mahoning Valley held another community forum Tuesday night to talk about improving the community’s relationship with the police.
The virtual meeting focused on transparency and investigating alleged police misconduct.
“If you can’t trust the police, who can you trust?” asked Milton Twp. Police Chief Charles Vandyke.
That was the question the Next Steps Coalition addressed in their fourth community forum about police reform. Valley chiefs of police and Mahoning County Sheriff Jerry Greene were in attendance.
Youngstown Police Chief Carl Davis admits there might be some problems lurking in departments in the area.
“I believe that there is some systemic racism in police departments. We’ve been fortunate enough here not to have had any incidents,” Davis said.
Boardman Police Chief Todd Werth says transparency is key to public trust, but outside investigations aren’t always needed.
“The public needs to see that, you know, it’s not a good ol’ boy network, it’s not happening. But some of it is just the logistics and the mechanics of that,” Werth said.
In the case of serious alleged misconduct, those in attendance agreed an outside investigation is best.
“If that were to happen, we would use the BCI or an outside agency,” Greene said.
“Typically, we would handle the administrative… the administrative end of the investigation and allow the outside agency, whether it would be the sheriff’s department or the BCI, give them the ability to handle the criminal end,” said Canfield Police Chief Chuck Colucci.
Vandyke agrees that police departments need to be held accountable when something goes wrong.
“We’re supposed to be the people that are standing there protecting the good people from the not-so-good people. If we’re the not-so-good people, then we need to be taken out,” Vandyke said.
The Next Steps Coalition is also asking anyone who has had a negative interaction with law enforcement, was subject to profiling or bias, or feels like their rights were violated to fill out an online form. You can remain anonymous.