YOUNGSTOWN — With increased violence in the city, the community has questions about how the Youngstown Police Department will keep residents safe while also working toward reforms.
Youngstown Police Department Chief Carl Davis addressed the concerns during the Next Steps Coalition town hall Tuesday evening. The forum was ostensibly focused on law enforcement diversity training. But with four shootings since June 6, Davis was asked how the department can work on police reform while addressing the increase in violence.
Davis said he reached out to the Rev. Kenneth Simon after the most recent shooting to ask him for prayers due to the recent violence in the city. The result was the “Stop the Violence” Community Prayer Vigil set for today at 6 p.m.
“I know the God that I serve, and he has me here for a reason,” Davis said. “He didn't put me in this position for me to fail. So, I believe, in the end, we're going to have a victory.”
Since becoming the police chief in January, YPD has implemented body cameras for officers, increased trained in de-escalation techniques and has focused on partnerships in the community.
“It is really disheartening and frustrating that it seems like every initiative that we put in place, we make two or three steps ahead and get knocked back a couple more by the senseless crime,” Davis said.
As far as diversity training, Davis said part of the national narrative is to mistrust the police. As a Black police chief, he has a different perspective since he grew up being confronted by the police before he became a police officer.
“I felt like I had an obligation to address these concerns as a Black police chief,” Davis said.
Both his life experiences and his position as chief provide him the opportunity to build relationships and to hear from those who feel marginalized or unsafe, he said.
Of the 19 police departments invited to the town hall — the sixth since the group was formed in June 2020 after the murder of George Floyd — only Davis, Lowellville Police Department Chief Rick Alli and Beaver Township Police Department Chief Carl Frost attended the virtual event.
Davis said YPD officers are required to have at least eight hours of diversity training each year.
The training includes diversity and civil rights, community culture awareness, community-police relations, procedural justice, trauma-informed policing, enhanced community policing, implicit bias and crisis intervention training.
Alli said the Lowellville Police Department is different from YPD because it has only 14 officers. All are white, and the community is not as diverse.
Due to the small department, when there is a complaint, Alli said he is able to deal with officers quickly and directly.
He said he also replaced officers who had a history of issues in the department and the community.
Alli said he does in-house training with officers to discuss recent issues in the news and how it relates to policing. The department also brings in speakers from different state organizations, such as the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy.
Frost also has a small department size with only 11 officers who also are all white.
The department has brought in training for officers in community cultural awareness as well as in identifying harassment and bullying, inclusivity and diversity. The most recent training for the department was earlier this year.The next town hall by the Next Steps Coalition is currently set for Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. and is expected to be both in-person and virtual.
The vigil will be Wednesday at 6 p.m. at 2649 Glenwood Ave., or the former Bottom Dollar Store parking lot.
Dr. M. Rosie Thompson Taylor asked people to bring friends and family to the vigil to fill the parking lot so that “when we pray, we will pray together.”