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Better policies, training part of Dayton police-DOJ settlement

A man in a black police officer uniform stands in front of an American flag and a large police badge symbol on a wall.
Dayton Police
Dayton Police Chief Kamran Afzal at a news conference

The U.S. Department of Justicehas settled with the city of Dayton to resolve allegations that its police department discriminated against a disabled driver during a September 2021 traffic stop.

Dayton Police officers Wayne Hammock and Vincent Carter pulled Clifford Owensby, a Black man who is paraplegic and uses a wheelchair, out of his car, including by his dreadlocks, onto the ground, handcuffed him, and dragged him through the street to a police car.

Owensby told officers he couldn't get out of the car safely without his wheelchair. He also requested the officers call their supervisor, which they did not.

Owensby can be heard on body camera video from the officers saying: "I'm a paraplegic. I’m a paraplegic. I’m a paraplegic.”

A screenshot from the body cam footage of the incident with Clifford Owensby
Chris Welter
A screenshot from the body cam footage of the incident with Clifford Owensby

Police said they removed Owensby from the car to conduct a discretionary “free air sniff” for drugs using a dog. Dayton police said they initially stopped him because they saw him leave a suspected drug house.

In January 2022, the Dayton Police Department found in an internal investigation that officers Hammock and Carter acted based on their training.

Dayton Police Chief Kamran Afzal said in a statement on Monday, June 12, the police department’s training exceeds all legal mandates, and that he will use this opportunity to further enhance the department.

As a part of the settlement, Dayton Police will be trained by Disability Rights Ohio on how to better interact with disabled people.

The police department will also have to modify its policies and provide progress reports to the DOJ.

"No one should be subjected to discriminatory treatment during police interactions," said Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in a news release. "Law enforcement agencies and their officers are required to make reasonable modifications to their policies and procedures when interacting with people with disabilities and failure to do so may violate federal civil rights law.”

Owensby has sued the city in a separate pending civil suit. Owensby and his attorney could not be reached for comment by publication.

Chris Welter is the Managing Editor at The Eichelberger Center for Community Voices at WYSO.

Chris got his start in radio in 2017 when he completed a six-month training at the Center for Community Voices. Most recently, he worked as a substitute host and the Environment Reporter at WYSO.