CANTON (News Talk 1480 WHBC) – Perhaps its the first of many moves to show the protesters their voices are being heard. As the demonstrations continue in downtown Canton, this afternoon Mayor Tom Bernabei issued a statement showing where the city stands on use of force by police officers.

The Mayor announced that the city fully endorses the “Eight Can’t Wait” national campaign, which outlines recommended use of force policies for departments to follow. Mayor Bernabei tells WHBC News that the Canton Police Department already has policies in place which address these eight areas, as follows:

  1. EXHAUST ALL MEANS BEFORE SHOOTING: Canton Police officers are fully trained to use all available measures to de-escalate a situation before any amount of reasonable force may be used.
  2. REPORT ALL USE OF FORCE INCIDENTS: The Canton Police Department requires officers to report every instance of use of force. This includes even drawing a tazer or gun, whether fired or not. Each report is investigated. Where there are findings, appropriate discipline is directed.
  3. CHOKEHOLDS & STRANGLEHOLDS NOT PERMITTED: Chokeholds and strangleholds are not part of Canton’s Police Department training and are not permitted or used as a general practice with an exception for use of deadly force situations.
  4. USE OF FORCE CONTINUUM: The Canton Police Department does not employ the use of force continuum. It is not trained and not followed by Ohio training standards. Officers are trained to use a best practice standard which trains officers to use the objectively reasonable amount of force under particular circumstances confronting the officer. Reasonable force is guided by the severity of the crime at issue, whether the individual is resisting arrest and the level of threat to the officer.
  5. REQUIRE DE-ESCALATION: All Canton Police officers are trained in de-escalation. Officers are required to attempt de-escalation in all situations.
  6. DUTY TO INTERVENE: Canton Police officers who observe another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which is objectively reasonable under the circumstances are required, when in a position to do so, to intercede to prevent the use of unreasonable force and report their observations to a supervisor.
  7. SHOOTING AT MOVING VEHICLES: Shooting at a motor vehicle is prohibited unless the vehicle itself presents the officer or another person with an immediate threat of deadly force.
  8. REQUIRE WARNING BEFORE SHOOTING: Canton Police officers are required to give a warning before the use of deadly force where such warning is feasible under the circumstances.

“The Canton Police Department is well ahead of many departments locally and nationally in our use of force policies and training,” Bernabei said. “The abhorrent murder of Mr. George Floyd is a wake-up call to Canton to re-examine our policies and practices and to have a full community dialog concerning them. We know we have room for improvement and we will continue to work hard to improve.”

The Mayor also announced that he today signed the Obama Foundation/My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Pledge regarding police use of force policies. By signing the Pledge, Mayor Bernabei is committing to:

  1. REVIEW police use of force policies
  2. ENGAGE the Canton community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in his review.
  3. REPORT the findings of his review to the community and seek feedback.
  4. REFORM police use of force policies.

With the policies already in existence, the Mayor emphasized that he felt it was important to make the endorsement and sign the pledge to show the city that he takes the issue of police brutality very seriously.

“We do a lot of things and we want people to know that we do a lot of things,” Bernabei said. “We want people to know that we care very much and that there are very comprehensive standards and rules concerning police conduct.”

The Mayor also mentioned that while he believes the city’s police force has does a great job, there is always room to grow.

“We know that we have room for improvement,” said Bernabei. “We will continue to work hard to improve.”

Bernabei says he expects dialogue to come from this. He then says its his job, along with other local leaders, to go out and seek conversation a diverse group of people within the community to hear what they feel needs to change.

The Mayor says he will continue to speak to those who are protesting in the city and commended the men and women who have been in charge of the demonstrations over the past 10 days.

“In a week of protests, there has been no burning, no looting and very minor property damage,” said Bernabei. “I credit the police but I also want to credit the leadership of the protesters.”

The Mayor specifically gave credit to Levi Hunter, one of the leaders of the Unity Coalition of Canton, who so far has been the main group leading a majority of the protests in the city.