AKRON, Ohio (WJW) – Eight Akron police officers under investigation for the shooting death of Jayland Walker returned to work from paid administrative leave.
“I have heard criticisms from different people that the officers are home doing nothing and getting paid, and I assure you this has not been a vacation for these officers,” said Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett.
Walker, 25, was shot and killed by police on June 27, following a traffic stop for a broken taillight that ended in a brief pursuit.
Officers fired 90 gunshots, shooting Walker 46 times, five wounds entering through his back, an autopsy revealed in July.
According to Akron police, Walker fired a shot at police during the chase. However, investigators said Walker was unarmed when he was shot and killed outside of the vehicle.
A gun was found in the backseat of Walker’s car.
The chief defended the decision to bring the officers back to work, citing a “crisis” in staffing levels. The department of 471 officers, Mylett said, is down 50 officers with more expected to leave before the end of the year.
“I consider it a crisis, staffing levels in our police department to the point where I’m being put in the position where I may end up having to decide to cut some services,” said Mylett.
Mylett declined to identify what services could be cut. Officers who returned to work Monday will not be identified due to concerns for their safety. The officers will handle non-emergency calls without leaving the building.
“I believe it will make a significant difference because every call that an officer is able to handle over the telephone is one less response by a field officer,” said Mylett.
The decision to have officers return to work was made with the guidance of two advisory councils of pastors, as well as Black community leaders, Mylett said.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) is investigating the deadly shooting at the request of the Akron Police Department.
A BCI spokesperson said their investigation remains “open and ongoing.”
Once complete, it will be referred to the county prosecutor who appointed the attorney general’s special prosecution section to the case who would then present to a grand jury.
Monday, Walker’s mother Pamela joined concerned community members during a march for police reform.
“I’m very, very, very sympathetic to what the Walker family is going through I truly am,” said Mylett. “I pray for the family, I pray for our officers. While I’m very compassionate for that and how it will be received, I have a greater responsibility to the entire Akron community and the public at large.”