I'm Destinee and this is where I share my life, my work, and my heart. As an activist and multi-passionate creative, you'll find a little bit of everything I love here. I may not be for everyone, but I hope that you'll feel welcomed, encouraged, and inspired from this online space.
Did you know that in 1999 the Akron Police Department suspended without pay, and ultimately fired a highly respected police officer for being “too fat?”
Yeah, that’s right. The Akron Police Department has a limit on weight, but not murders or excessive force. I didn’t know Stephanie Hollis. When I came across her story while doing research I felt compelled to share how wildly fucked up the Akron Police Department’s priorities have been for decades. There are so many messed up things about what they did to Stephanie Hollis, but I’ll start with this. I don’t know for certain as none of the articles I found stated for sure. But from the photo, she appears to be a Black woman. If she is not, I’m willing to bet she is most certainly a woman of color at that. So them firing her for being “overweight” was problematic to begin with. Especially considering there have been and are currently numerous big-bodied white men on the force, including the current Chief, Steve Mylett.
In 1999, Stephanie Hollis, 29, was a well-liked and respected Akron police officer. She was assigned to the Community Oriented Policing Unit. She was originally hired to the department in 1993. According to accounts from community members and co-workers, Stephanie was a kind, well-respected, and professional police officer who received high markings on all her evaluations.
In October 1999, Officer Stephanie Hollis and a detective were suspended without pay after they failed to meet the department’s weight limit. They were given six months to lose the weight, or face termination.
This was the first time an Akron police officer had faced dismissal under a fairly new “fitness policy.” A policy enacted by Police Chief Edward Irvine in 1997 that required officers to adhere to a strict weight limit. If officers exceeded the weight limit, they must’ve been able to pass a rigorous obstacle course. This was not your average obstacle course. This course included scaling a six foot wall, running a 400 yard zig-zag course, dragging a 165 lb. dummy and firing a gun 21 times. This course was required to be completed all within 3 minutes and 45 seconds. This weight limit requirement was not applied equally throughout the department, as it only applied to those hired after 1984.
Stephanie’s weight did not interfere with her ability to do her job. However, she adhered to a strict diet, exercised daily for over a year, and lost 50 lbs. Even after all that work, her progress still wasn’t up to the Akron Police Department’s standards.
Both Stephanie and the detective appealed the suspensions. On December 7, 1999, they would face an appeal hearing before Mayor Don Plusquellic.
“This weight situation is one of the most difficult things I’ve dealt with in my entire life,” said Hollis. Stephanie didn’t struggle with her weight until after high school. At that time she was no longer playing sports, she got married, and started having children. Despite actively making progress to lose weight, the Mayor defended the department’s policy and upheld the suspensions without pay. Both Stephanie and the detective then appealed the decision to the Akron Civil Service Commission.
After the Mayor upheld their suspensions without pay, they appealed the decision to the Akron Civil Service Commission. The detective, employed at APD since 1984, eventually applied for early retirement instead of continuing to fight the suspension. Stephanie, unfortunately, had not been with the department long enough to have that option. The financial stress it caused her family was so heavy that she started delivering newspapers just to get by.
Stephanie continued to fight her appeal and continued trying to lose weight. She lost 50 lbs. by following a strict diet and beginning everyday with a 45 minute workout. Despite her progress and willingness to work hard, she was fired on August 3, 2000 for exceeding the department’s weight limit.
Despite an outpouring of support and recommendations from community members, on May 24, 2001, the Akron Civil Service Commission unanimously ruled to deny Stephanie’s request to return to work at the Akron Police Dept.
The Akron Police Department won’t even name, let alone fire any of the eight officers that shot 94 rounds at Jayland Walker as he ran away from them. But they did fire a well-praised police officer because the number on the scale was “too much” by their standards. Even when she was trying super hard to get where they wanted her to be, it still wasn’t good enough.
Soooo…in summary, the Akron Police Department has a limit on weight, but not on murder? Make it make sense.
They really were more concerned with the percentage of fat on a successful, well-respected, female police officer’s body than they ever were about the 46 holes they left in Jayland Walker’s.
Captain Brian Simcox was demoted for conducting illegal searches. One of which was of a woman’s phone. When he discovered a pornographic picture in it, he took a photo of it with his own phone. Then he shared the photo electronically and in person among fellow officers, an Akron firefighter, a tow truck driver, and his own family.
Lieutenant Edward Patalon was demoted for having sex while on the job and for taking/sending pictures of his penis while in uniform at police headquarters.
Officers Matthew Ritzinger, Cory Siegferth, Joseph Filimon, Dylan Carmany, Joshua Getz, Judd Bishop, Justin Trawick, and Katee Sweeney faced no disciplinary action at all after shooting 94 rounds at an actual human being that left 46 gunshot wounds to his body, then proceeded to handcuff his lifeless body after. Then their fellow officers continue to violate the rights of citizens by harassing, intimidating, and retaliating against those who protested this gross injustice.
As I’ve dedicated my educational career to researching the intersection of institutional racism and the criminal justice system, I share my research to educate and inform the public. While the institutions responsible for oppression may have long since forgotten these stories, my purpose in sharing them is so that YOU don’t forget about the people these institutions have harmed. If you learned something from my research or feel compelled to support the work that I do, my Cashapp is $destineenstark and my Venmo is @destineenstark, if you’d like to leave me a tip or buy me a drink. Your support in my content is never expected, but always appreciated. A simple like, save, or share helps too! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
Source: The Akron Beacon Journal