AKRON, Ohio — The eight Akron police officers who are under investigation for their involvement in the deadly shooting of Jayland Walker have returned to work.
The officers, whose names have not been released, came back to work on Monday. They are not in uniform, and they are not responding to calls, said Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett.He said the decision is due to a staffing shortage in the department.
"I need as many people as I can muster so I don't have to cut services to the community," Mylett said. "So much so that I consider it a crisis—staffing levels in our police department—to the point where I'm being put in a position where I may end up having to decide to cut some services that we provide to the community because we just don't have enough people. And that's certainly something I do not want to do."
But in the wake of Walker's death, the city of Akron has dealt with protests, violence and turmoil.
Pastor R. Stacey Jenkins, with the House of Prayer for all People in Akron, doesn't agree with the move.
"Our community is fractured. They're hurting and all this does is bring back the hurt," he said. "It seems like it's a slap in the face."
He believes Mylett should've waited until the conclusion of Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation's case is concluded and the internal review is complete.
"They asked us to ask the community to wait. They asked us to ask the community to be patient, to let the process go forth, and for him to bring the officers in question back to work that's saying they want us to wait, but they didn't wait. You got to do what you got to do, but you surely can't bring back people being investigated for a potential crime to go to work. That hurts the community," said Pastor Jenkins.
Ray Greene Jr. is an activist and Akron native. He is the executive director of Freedom Bloc. He echoed Pastor Jenkins' sentiment.
"There are checks and balances everywhere except for the police department. The police department just killed this young man and because they are short-handed we have to bring these police officers back to work? That doesn’t make sense," he said.
Daniel Flannery is a gun-violence expert and a professor at Case Western Reserve University. He said it is not uncommon for police officers to return to administrative duties in situations like this one.
"It’s important to note, based on the information available to us, that these officers are not out on the streets responding to calls. They’re on administrative desk duty," he said.
Flannery said paid, administrative leave is the typical first step, but what happens as independent investigations carry on varies depending on the department.
"Every situation is a little bit different, but divisions do have contractual obligations with what they're permitted to do with paid and unpaid leave," said Flannery.
Greene said that Mylett should've looked for other options to fill a staffing shortage.
"There was no thought into how to solve that problem other than bringing the officers back," he said.
Both Pastor Jenkins and Greene pushing to get residents out to vote for Issue 10 in November which would create a 9-member Citizen's Police Oversight Board.
"So we can oversight, so we can have transparency, so we can have trust between police and the community. Right now, there’s no trust and this is the latest incident to continue to fracture that trust," said Greene.
Tuesday evening, Ken Abbarno and Bobby DiCello, the attorneys for the Walker family, released the following statement:
The planning behind the decision to reinstate the police officers involved in this summer’s tragic killing of Jayland Walker is callous and ignores the Walker family’s needs for a fair process.
The decision to reinstate these officers – even to desk duty – fails to take into account a pending investigation into their actions that culminated in Jayland’s brutal shooting and unjustifiable death resulting from a barrage of more than 90 bullets. This decision undermines the legitimacy of the investigative process the Walker family has been asked to follow and which BCI has led to this point. On behalf of the Walker family, we call on the City of Akron to do the right thing and place the officers back on leave until the investigation has been completed.