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Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett to retire at the end of the year

 Akron's police chief, Steve Mylett, gives remarks during luncheon
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett gives remarks during a First Friday Club of Greater Akron luncheon on Friday, June 2, 2023.

Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett will retire at the end of the year. Mayor Dan Horrigan announced Mylett's planned departure in a press release Tuesday afternoon. His retirement is effective Jan. 1, 2024.

Mylett’s forthcoming departure means Akron will have both a new mayor and a new police chief next year.

Shammas Malik, who is the city’s presumptive next mayor because he is running unopposed in the November election, will lead the search for a new police chief in the coming months.

Though he didn't always agree with Mylett's decisions, Malik said, he thanks him for his service to the city.

“It’s not an easy job by any means, and he’s come into the community and really given a lot of himself,” Malik said.

Malik wasn’t surprised by Mylett’s planned departure, he added. The chief told Malik he’d been considering stepping away and into the private sector for some time, he said.

Mylett joined the department as chief in August 2021 after a national search. He previously lead the Bellevue Police Department in Washington and the Southlake Police department in Texas, as well as serving as the assistant chief of the Corpus Christi Police Department. Mylett is taking a position in the private sector in January.

“It is with great difficulty that I make this decision to step away, but I do think the time is right based on many different factors,” Mylett said in the release. “I am proud to end my 35 years in policing here in Akron.”

Mylett started in Akron as the city experienced a rise in gun violence, a trend seen across the country. Less than a year into his tenure, the city was rocked by the police shooting death of Jayland Walker who was Black. Eight Akron police officers shot and killed Walker following a car and foot chase.

While an investigation showed a gun was fired from Walker's car during the car chase, Walker was unarmed when he was killed. Mylett led the department through months of protests and an increasingly unstable relationship between the police and the community.

Mylett's decision not release the names of the officers involved in Walker's death, letting the eight officers return to work and allowing officers to remove nametags received harsh scrutiny from the public, including Malik.

 "I haven't always agreed with everything. There are things I've agreed with, things I've disagreed with, but I've always shared them with him directly,” Malik said. “I go back to, I appreciate his service and we're going to move forward."

Malik said he wants the next chief to help make the police department more efficient, as well as accountable.

“Someone who has alignment with the perspective that I have, that most residents have, that they want the Akron Police Department  to be … able to do some of that typical work when it comes to responding to calls for service, but also who is able to prioritize things like community-based policing, building trust, someone who’s committed to transparency and accountability,” Malik added.

Malik said he may look for someone who is familiar with this area or a similar city. His team will consider both internal and external candidates, and he plans to include various perspectives from community groups in the search, he said.

Activists with community organizing group The Freedom BLOC had repeatedly called for Mylett’s resignation.

The Freedom BLOC executive director Rev. Ray Greene Jr. wishes Mylett and his family well, but he said he’s satisfied with the news of his planned departure.

“This is what we hoped for, this is what we wished for, this is what we demanded,” Greene said. “We are very pleased with this decision, but this doesn’t change the fact that we have corrupt police officers still in our department looking for promotions and sorts, so this is just the easy way out.”

The final straw, Greene said, was when Mylett continued to defend Akron police in the aftermath of the Walker shooting, as well as when officers deployed chemical irritants on protesters.

“I understand as a boss you have to back up your employees, but as a person that gets paid by the taxpayers, that is appointed, ultimately, by the taxpayers because we elect the mayor, I believe he should have been more closer to the community, than standing up for officers that were obviously doing wrong,” Greene added.

Although a grand jury declined to indict the eight officers involved in Walker's death, the community is still demanding justice. Walker's family has sued the city and Mylett, claiming excessive use of force and systemic violence and racism in the department. People protesting Walker's death have also filed a suitagainst the city and police officers claiming unlawful arrests during a series of protests in July 2022.

“This past year has been very difficult for many, many people, and the road ahead to regain what was lost will be no easy feat," Mylett said in a statement. "However, I hold tremendous optimism for the future of this city, and I know everyone in this city wants a safe and secure Akron in order to raise our families and to live in peace. Together, we can achieve our vision.”

Horrigan's tenure in the mayor's office will also come to an end in January after choosing not to run for a third term.

The city's presumptive next mayor, Shammas Malik, will lead the search for the next chief.

In a statement, Malik thanked Mylett for his service. His team will consider both internal and external candidates, he said.

"Safety will be my administration’s top priority," Malik said in the statement. "A central goal of my administration will be making sure the Akron Police Department is an effective, forward-focused organization, able to respond to calls for service while also prioritizing proactive, community-based policing."

Malik added that he wants to focus on transparency and accountability in the police department, as well as retention efforts "to ensure our safety forces have the training, support, and work environment they need to be successful."

Horrigan will work with Malik on the search for a new chief in the coming weeks.

“I want to thank Chief Mylett for his outstanding, dedicated service to our community through a very trying time," Horrigan said in a statement.

Greene of The Freedom BLOC added that he plans to work with Malik in the search for the new police chief. He hopes the next chief will focus on bringing more accountability to the department.

He’d also like the next mayor and chief to prioritize social determinants, like access to housing and financial sustainability, that Greene said play a big role in public safety.

Malik ran his campaign for the mayor's office on a platform of public safety. He condemned the police's actions regarding Walker's death and worked on Issue 10, leading to the formation of Akron's Civilian Police Oversight Board. Malik has continued to champion the board and pledged to provide more funding for police training and to work with the Akron Police Department to review practices on traffic stops and police chases. He's also committed to implementing community policing and developing a plan to include mental health workers and social workers in police responses to mental health calls.

Updated: September 12, 2023 at 6:45 PM EDT
This story has been updated to include comments from the presumptive next mayor of Akron, Shammas Malik, and Ray Greene with The Freedom BLOC.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.