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Oxford’s citizen police oversight group shares first-year findings

Training for police officers was the major topic of discussion when the Police Community Relations and Review Commission held its first community meeting Oct. 11.

The commission grew out of concerns raised in 2013 by residents questioning police training and sensitivity to minority residents. It was established by city ordinance late last year and began meeting in January. The ordinance requires they meet at least quarterly and hold one community meeting each year to give the public an opportunity to hear what they have been doing and to raise any issues or questions.

The commission has spent a large amount of time this year learning more about police officer training and areas covered in the annual re-certification procedure, according to commission member Amber Franklin.

Officers are required by the state to have 11 additional hours of training this year, according to Oxford Police Chief John Jones, who added that number rises to 20 hours next year and 40 hours in 2018.

In addition, Jones said, the department requires more training each year on various topics, such as crisis intervention, mental health issues and social services.

“We deal with this a lot, several times a day,” the chief said. “We have a $25,000 training budget. It’s a pretty robust training budget. Even with cutbacks, we have kept that training budget.”

City Manager Doug Elliott echoed that later in the meeting when someone from the audience told of learning the training budget for the Sheriff’s Department, a much larger organization, is $20,000.

“We’ve looked at the budget and it is robust,” Elliott said. “If Chief Jones comes to us and says he needs more, that’s a priority.”

The commission was also asked about the complaint procedure, if someone is not satisfied with the actions of an officer. The Oxford procedure requires a written complain be signed, while an audience member said Cincinnati allows complaints in-person, by mail, telephone or online.

Commission members agreed they are willing to talk to anyone concerned enough to make a complaint and will assist with the process.

Jones said commission members would be made aware of complaints but insisted they would have to be signed.

He compared it to a criminal action where witnesses would be required to appear in court and said he cannot take disciplinary action against officers on an anonymous complaint.

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