City of Akron / Zoom Webinar
Police Chief Steve Mylett says badge numbers can be used to identify officers in absence of name tags.
During a Monday morning press conference, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett explained once again why he'd permitted his officers to remove their name tags during days of heated protest activity. Demonstrations have been ongoing in the Rubber City, 40 miles south of Cleveland, ever since officials released body cam footage of the June 27 shooting death of Jayland Walker.
Mylett said, as he has in recent days
, that he had received word from the FBI that there were two "credible threats" from extremist groups who had allegedly put out "bounties" on his officers' heads. On top of that, during demonstrations, protesters had evidently made verbal threats of violence against officers and the officers' personal information was circulating on social media.
Though Mylett declined to elaborate on these threats — he said that he would not give the extremist groups "air time" even if he had identifying information in front of him, calling into question the threats' existence — he said the atmosphere led him to permit officers to remove their name plates. And he said the authorization would continue until he determined that the threats were no longer credible or no longer existed.
"I have a responsibility to enhance public safety," Mylett said, "but I also have a responsibility to enhance the safety of your officers. I did not want to unnecessarily put them in harm's way. What we saw over the last couple of weeks was reprehensible, and it needs to stop."
Mylett defended his decision not only on the grounds of officer safety but also on the grounds of precedence. He said that up in Cleveland, officers had been known to remove their name tags in the past. (He did not specify under what circumstances Cleveland officers had been permitted to do so. Scene has asked Cleveland police for examples of when officers would be allowed to remove their name tags.)
And Mylett repeated that while name tags were the easiest and most visible way for the public to identify individual officers, there were other ways as well, including badge numbers, car numbers, bodycam footage and even Akron employee ID numbers, which he suggested would be provided upon request.
Questions about the removal of officer name tags came up in a press conference last week and resurfaced Sunday in a meeting among Akron's Black elected officials. Both Mylett and Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan attended the meeting and on Monday praised the candor and productivity there. Among other things, leaders discussed the need for dash cameras in police cruisers. Mylett said leaders had already written a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine requesting funds — perhaps ARPA dollars — to help Akron pay for the dash cams.
Officials also announced Monday the creation of a Citizen Review Board in Akron to review citizen complaints against the Akron Police and monitor trends related to those complaints. City Council President Margo Sommerville said she believed the board was the best path forward for the community.
"The incorporation of a citizen review board is the logical next step as we reimagine public safety and community policing in Akron," she said in a statement. "We remain steadfast in our commitment to ensure that transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement are hallmarks in our city’s efforts to safeguard our communities and all of our residents."
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