Greater Stark County Urban League calls for a 'reimagined' Canton City Police Department

The Greater Stark County Urban League (Canton, OH) calls for a “reimagined” Canton City Police Department.

Thomas West, President and CEO of the Greater Stark County Urban League, said a Canton police officer's use of a police dog to bite a city resident who already was lying face down with his arms crossed behind his back demonstrates a need for changes within the department. In a June 3 letter to city leaders, West wrote the reimagined department would be where “integrity and respect for fellow citizens and our city are paramount.”

Separately, the Urban League and the Stark County NAACP are also working together to create the framework for a new police oversight commission that would have subpoena powers and be independent of city government. The agencies’ recommendations are expected to be given to city leaders within the next few weeks.

What does the Urban League’s ‘reimagined’ police department look like?

West said a reimagined department would embody eight key principles and practices:

The eight principles are:

  1. Community-centered policing, where officers regularly engage with community members and groups through events and outreach programs to build relationships, understand community needs, and create a support network for crime prevention.

  2. Transparency and accountability, including the mandatory use of body cameras; an independent review board with community representation to oversee investigations into police misconduct; and regular publication of detailed reports on police activities, use-of-force incidents, and departmental policies.

  3. Training and development, including programs focused on de-escalation techniques, mental health crisis intervention, and cultural competency; ongoing training in best practices; and prioritizing the recruitment of officers who reflect the community's diversity and demonstrate a commitment to public service and ethical behavior.

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