DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – As the City of Dayton continues to make strides in its police reform efforts, one recommendation has been to hire an independent accountability auditor to ensure policing is looked at holistically, with the interest of both community members and the police department in mind. However, in a police reform implementation meeting held Monday, for purposes of neutrality, some committee members disagreed as to exactly whom that independent auditor should report.
“When we started discussing the independent auditor, there were two things we all discussed — and that was there had to be independence from the police department and independence from the city administration. That, I think, had 100 percent agreement….So to then to find out at the last minute that the city manager will be directly supervising this person…was very surprising to me and I think to others on the committee,” said Michael Deffet, a public defender for the city, said in the virtual meeting.
Commissioner Matt Joseph, who co-chaired the Oversight Committee along with county recorder, Brandon McClain, said in the meeting that when the committee first began discussing legislation to form the new position last fall, each of those components were on the table. However, as the discussion about who the auditor would report to continued, the committee looked at a number of models, including a San Hose model in which a separate office was involved and a different model from Cincinnati.
However, Joseph said when it became clear that the auditor could not be 100 percent independent, they moved to a dual reporting model that would allow for independence through checks and balances.
“The city manager is the boss of police…I mean a few people down, but the city manager is over police. But the auditor is going to have so much involvement with police. They’re going to need to as for information, they’re going to ask them to look into other evidence or other things that happen they’re going to say, ‘Hey, you might’ve missed something in the process’….At the same time, we need this auditor to be independent — independent enough to question even the city manager,” he said.
To implement checks and balances, commissioner Joseph said the auditor will also report to the city commission, with the commission being responsible for hiring and firing for the position and listening to the day to day concerns of the auditor. Additionally, he said if this person has a policing complaint regarding the city manager’s office, they would be expected to report it to the commission.
Torey Hollingsworth, director of the Dayton City Commission office, gave an example of this in Monday’s virtual meeting.
“What an independent auditor reporting to the commission would mean in effect, is that that person would report to me, as the director of the city commission office. And if there were an issue that came up in the regular checking that the auditor would do through their daily work of looking into an internal investigation and they came to me and said there was an issue, for the issue to be corrected I would then need to go talk to the city manager, who could tell the chief of police –who’s the director of the police department — to make that change.”
She said while the city manager must still be consulted in this process, involving the commission will add a check that would not be present if the auditor reported only to the city manager.
While it’s a position the city currently doesn’t have, Commissioner Joseph said is critical to the wellbeing of the community.
“There is a historical problem with policing,” he said. “We know there is, and we are going to do everything we can to do our part to fix our bit of it. An observer that can see the whole process is different than what we’ve tried before — it’s different than what most cities have tried. But to have an independent person who can oversee the process we think is very important to everybody.”
Joseph said the recommendation was made in early 2021. Since then, the committee has been working to determine what tasks will be assigned to that individual, and he says the dual reporting model is key piece to that proposed role. Once the details of the position are voted upon, he said the city will consider applicants who pay close attention to detail and potentially has a background in law.
The independent accountability auditor position is just one of 142 recommendations that came out of the city’s police reform efforts, so Joseph said they may take some time to come together. However, he said they are all expected to make the community better. He added, as the committee works on developing the job description, community members are welcome to offer their recommendations by reaching out to the city commission or attending one of the upcoming police reform working groups.