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Akron announces two finalists for police chief. Will hold town halls for public questions

Akron Police Department cruisers are seen in Downtown Akron.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Akron Police Department cruisers are seen in Downtown Akron.

The city of Akron has announced the names of two finalists in the search for a new chief of police.

The finalists are deputy chiefs Jesse Leeser and Brian Harding, who is also the current acting chief, according to a city press release issued Friday.

The candidates will meet with Akron Police officers and staff and community leaders, including members of the Akron City Council and the Black Elected Officials of Summit County in coming weeks as part of the selection process, the media release said.

The public will also have two chances to ask questions of the candidates at town hall meetings later in April.

The town hall meetings will be held on Sat. April 20 from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and on Tues., April 23 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Both town halls will take place at the Buchtel Community Learning Center, at 1040 Copley Road in Akron.

Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett retired at the end of 2023. 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.

A Summit County special grand jury declined to indict the officers.

Walker’s death drew national attention and sparked protests and calls for police reform in Akron.

In the months after the shooting, residents collected signatures on a ballot initiative to create a civilian oversight board that monitors complaints brought against Akron police.

On Friday, the city also released the results of a community surveyconducted as part of the city's police chief recruitment and selection process.

Neighborhood safety is a primary area of concern for residents, respondents would like to see more police presence in the community, including additional patrols and increased staffing.

Respondents also raised the issue of accountability, according to the survey.

"Participants would like to ensure officers are held responsible for their actions," the report says, although the report also noted "people believe that police are doing well and that the media is misrepresenting facts."

The survey also found that participants say they are concerned about racism and mistreatment of minorities, would like the city to increase diversity within the department and would like the police to create trust with the community through communication and transparency.

Stephanie is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.