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Oxford community members ask City Council for police reform

Community members addressed Oxford City Council on measures they want to see implemented in the city to address police brutality and community wellness at council’s most recent meeting. 

Heidi Schran, a resident, asked council to pass a resolution acknowledging racism as a public health crisis. 

“This would allow for Oxford to show that we acknowledge the health crisis that many of our citizens experience before, during and, unfortunately, probably after this pandemic,” Schran said. 

Brandon Humphrey, a Miami University graduate student, asked council to ban the use of chokeholds by the Oxford Police Department (OPD) and reallocate funds from the OPD budget to programs like mental health services, substance abuse services and affordable housing.

Humphrey referenced Oxford’s budget for law enforcement compared to that for public wellness. 

“In short, I’m asking for a budget that reflects the actual needs of Oxford residents,” Humphrey said.  

In Oxford’s 2020 budget report, City Council allocated $5.7 million to the division of security of persons and property, which includes law enforcement, traffic control and street lighting. To the division of public health and welfare, which includes cemeteries, public health and community assistance, council allocated $145,564. 

Humphrey also spoke about a friend of his who is black and had been previously pulled over in Oxford and felt uncomfortable with the officers. 

Later in the meeting, OPD chief John Jones said he looked forward to speaking to council in future meetings about the police budget. He also addressed Humphrey’s comment.

“We have a complaint process, and I’m very open to receiving public comments, and I’m willing to meet with any citizen,” Jones said. “But when I hear about it well after the fact and with no information, it’s difficult to go back and look at that and train our officers to do better.”

Jones said officers have body cameras that can be reviewed if a complaint is made. Jones said if community members have a complaint, they can contact him, fill out a citizen complaint or contact the Police Community Relations & Review Commission.

Three other community members spoke about race in Oxford and supported declaring racism as a public health crisis, banning the use of chokeholds and funding community health programs. 

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Later in the meeting, council voted to approve a resolution approving the application for a designated outdoor refreshment area (DORA) uptown. The DORA would be in effect from N. Beech Street to Campus Avenue and Church Street to Walnut Street creating a rectangular boundary.

Within the DORA, adults would be permitted to buy and drink alcohol in open containers from participating vendors. Participating restaurants must use compostable cups that will be sold to businesses at a cost by the city. 

City Manager Doug Elliott said the DORA will be in effect from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day until Aug. 15. 

Council also approved 16 appointments to various boards and commissions. The appointments include: 

  • Lisa Newman to the Civil Service Commission
  • Andor Kiss to the Environmental Commission
  • Sherry Lind and Schnabl to to the Housing Advisory Commission
  • Sean Wagner and Chris Skoglind to the Historic and Architectural Preservation Commission
  • Vincent Hand to the Oxford Parking & Transportation Advisory Board
  • Stephanie Hilles and Norm Krumpe to the Public Arts Commission of Oxford
  • Greg Smith to the Personnel Appeals Board
  • Steve Dana and Shana Rosenberg to the Planning Commission
  • Richard Kammer and Ken Bogard to the Recreation Board
  • Cathy McVey and Matt Arbuckle to the Student Community Relations Commission

Council’s July 7 meeting has been canceled. The next council meeting will be streamed on YouTube at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 21.