Established 1826 — Oldest College Newspaper West of the Alleghenies

Citizens ask for more transparency following officer’s use of force

Fran Jackson voiced the concerns of the Oxford NAACP during the PCRRC meeting.
Fran Jackson voiced the concerns of the Oxford NAACP during the PCRRC meeting.

On Thursday, Feb. 15, Oxford’s Police Community Relations and Review Commission (PCRRC) held an open meeting for commissioners and the public to question and voice concerns over an Oxford police officer’s use of force during the arrest of Miami University football player Devin Johnson on Nov. 18, 2023.

The meeting included Oxford Police Chief John Jones and Law Director Chris Conard to explain and answer commissioners' questions.

Conard said that because of the elements of the incident, the Oxford Police Department (OPD) decided to have an external review instead of an internal review headed by Jones to avoid implicit bias or protection of the officer involved, Matthew Blauvelt. 

Two lawyers from different firms are conducting the investigation. David Williamson of Bieser, Greer and Landis and Jonathan Hollingsworth of Hollingsworth and Washington were chosen by city manager Doug Elliot to determine if the officer violated OPD’s use of force policy. 

“I think what we also realized was, however, the outcome of that case is resolved, it still doesn't solve the problem of what the discussion really is,” Conard said. “Whether or not in this community, the use of force policy, as it is written, is a reflection of what this community wants, what this community expects, and what the police department understands.”

Conard continued by saying that he and Jones were not far along enough in the process to answer every question that the public may have about the incident and the ensuing investigation.

“I think that there is an awareness by everyone that when you watch the video, there are questions and many of you may have those, [but] we’re not prepared right now to have that discussion,” Conard said.

After Jones detailed the incident, the floor was opened for public comment. Each speaker was limited to five minutes for their statements. Commission members emphasized that this time was not for questions but for community thoughts on both the investigation and OPD’s use of force policy.

Fran Jackson, president of Oxford’s NAACP branch, began by expressing the association's concern with the officer’s actions in the video that circulated the internet.

“The Oxford NAACP is doing its due diligence to ensure transparency occurs throughout the investigation before we start for the protection of civil rights and justice for all people in the greater Oxford community,” Jackson said.

Ann Fuehrer, Oxford NAACP secretary and facilitator for Oxford Citizens for Peace and Justice (OCPJ), expressed her concerns gathered from both organizations. Fuehrer said that she and others have been in contact with the city, Ohio NAACP and Johnson while looking for answers that the community has.

Fuehrer then said that more opportunities for the community to be engaged and have their questions answered should be available.

Enjoy what you're reading?
Signup for our newsletter

“I think we all agree that it would be important to have a public conversation of this sort that has been alluded to. You can imagine that the questions being raised by the public are far-ranging,” Fuehrer said. “They have to do with the hiring of Officer Blauvelt and his history. They have to do with protocol, the use of force, the video and all the processes involved in the video not being viewed including questions about the chain of custody.”

Toni Smith, an Oxford resident, said that she was worried about the case's relation to the Black community compared to past cases in recent history. She referenced the differing thoughts between police and the Black community during the Rodney King case in 1991 and asked how this investigation would take that bias into account.

Smith said that she would like to see the perspectives of OPD and the community align by the end of the investigation. She said that she doesn’t see similar viewpoints currently.

“I think there's a disconnect somewhere, but I would like to see results,” Smith said.

Following the public section of the meeting, Conard said that the process is taking longer than they expected and that questions will be more easily answered later in the year.

“Our hope was to have something done by the end of this month; that is not going to happen,” Conard said. “I think it's more realistic that it will be done sometime in March.”