Toledo’s police chief highlighted the department’s embrace of de-escalation training as a means to better serve the city during a public forum Wednesday.
The 608 city police officers completed an eight-hour course that taught how verbal techniques can slow down tense interactions. The extra time allows for back-up and can help defuse situations, Chief George Kral said.
“If there’s no reason to put hands on someone, or even worse, go for a weapon or Taser, that’s what they do. They’ll talk,” Chief Kral said.
City officials enacted the program before it became a state requirement, he said.
More than 100 people attended an evening forum addressing race relations and area law enforcement practices. The Bethlehem Family Life Center in central city hosted the discussion.
Chief Kral fielded questions on a range of subjects, including police diversity and body cameras.
He outlined increased recruitment efforts to better reflect racial statistics in the city. Internal affairs complaints from citizens are down 40 percent compared with this point last year.
The city is reviving its Civilian Police Review Board as an alternative for those who disagree with an internal affairs ruling. Chief Kral said officials are reviewing whether it will serve more than an advisory role.
“The important thing is we’re getting it off the ground again. So once we get the people in place, we will then be able to design what works for Toledo,” Chief Kral said.
Toledo police also expect to increase the number of officers wearing body cameras. All in the field operations section will wear them by next year, he said.
Every Toledo police officer carries naloxone, an antidote for opioid overdose.
The department believes it has saved 72 people with it, Chief Kral said.
“My job is to protect you, as well as get them help,” Chief Kral said.
Lucas County Sheriff John Tharp discussed community outreach. He invited the public to tour the county jail, and learn more about alternatives to incarceration for less-serious offenders.
“We have to look at reducing populations at these facilities and make sure we have the right people that need to be in there,” Sheriff Tharp said.
The Rev. Talmadge Thomas said he hopes to raise awareness of police protocols. Officers intend to protect and serve, and it is the mistakes of a few that draw most attention.
Police, churches, and citizens all have a role in improving a city. Those who know of illegal activity have a responsibility to assist investigators, said Pastor Thomas of City of Zion, the Mt. Zion Baptist Church.
“We know more than we say, and that breeds bad relationships,” he said.
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