Joshua Morrison/News In this file photo, the Mount Vernon Police Department conducts a traffic stop in the Knox County Service Center parking lot on Chestnut Street on Sept. 5, 2019.

Joshua Morrison/News
In this file photo, the Mount Vernon Police Department conducts a traffic stop in the Knox County Service Center parking lot on Chestnut Street on Sept. 5, 2019.

MOUNT VERNON – Concerned over the lack of progress on legislation proposed months ago, Mount Vernon residents Franklin Walker and Andrea White came before a Mount Vernon City Council meeting Monday evening to re-affirm the need for action.

Regarding the stance “people should just follow orders” taken by Councilmembers Tammy Woods and Samantha Scoles about recent outcry against police brutality; White called it a “racist response,” adding that “just following orders has not saved countless Black lives from police brutality.”

White invited council members to remember their 7th-grade civics lessons and how this country’s government is supposed to operate based on a separation of powers.

“(Police officers’) sole job is to arrest and detain only,” White said. “In cases where people do not follow orders, police need to do their job, not brutalize people.”

Judgement of guilt and deciding the correct course of punishment is a different branch of government entirely, she added.

White went so far as to ask if the council is even interested in available information about racial profiling in the area, claiming that council members let the matter rest at ‘hoping it wasn’t real’ because no one they know personally has experienced it.

Councilmember John Francis offered his cell phone number for those who have experienced or witnessed police brutality or racial profiling. He said that he “will be the first to pursue it for them.”

Walker surmised that the legislation submitted to the council is considered anti-police; while White explained that we have a cultural tendency of not wanting police officers to face legal consequences and mechanisms for holding police accountable, or for reporting police brutality to counteract it.

Both Francis and Mike Hillier voiced that legislation that is “cut-and-paste” from California will not work for Mount Vernon.

Mayor Matt Starr said he is pursuing a “warm lead” on getting alternative funds organized to hire a community advocate for the police department and hopes to have information soon.

Walker also criticized that the Mount Vernon Police Department hasn’t been certified as meeting the minimum requirements put forth by the Ohio Collaborative.

Becoming certified by the Ohio Collaborative was “one of [Chief Morgan’s] main priorities this year,” Safety-Service Director Rick Dzik said.

Francis emphasized that Morgan has only been chief for six months (actually eight months— and only three months at the time of the report), and updates are already progressing. Dzik mentioned that the department should have officers fully certified by the next report.

 

Hannah DeVolld: 740-397-5333 or hannah@mountvernonnews.com and on Twitter, @