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.
In 1983, two investigative journalists for the Akron Beacon Journal, Bill Osinski and Dave Scott, spent several months investigating the numerous complaints of excessive force by the Canton Police Department. What they discovered is disturbing to say the least.
They interviewed 25 people as a part of their investigation. Ten of them claimed they were beaten by Canton police officers after they were already handcuffed. Four of them said their heads were pinned to the ground under the officers’ boots. One of the claims was so brutal that the federal judge that oversaw the case harshly criticized the department. This prompted the mayor to demand some extreme departmental changes.
U.S. District Judge, Ann Aldrich, wrote in her opinion that a Canton Police officer clubbed a man over the head without provocation. She stated that the Canton Police may feel they can get away with anything short of flagrant, provable criminal acts. She said that the department’s policy on investigating citizen complaints “could give police officers the notion that so long as they stay within the boundaries of the criminal law, they will suffer no adverse consequences for any constitutional deprivations.”
This ruling caused Mayor Stanley Cmich to write a three page directive to Police Chief Thomas Wyatt. The letter demanded changes within the department policies and procedures for use of force, human relations, the screening and training of officers, and complaint investigations.
Canton Police Chief Wyatt claimed he was unaware of any excessive force claims during the entirety of his career. Even though at the time there were ELEVEN federal civil rights lawsuits alleging police misconduct over a two year period. These were lawsuits that involved millions of dollars in damages, and he somehow was unaware of the allegations.
Public Safety Director Gerald Graybill insisted that people who complain about the police are liars. Ironically enough, Mr. Graybill is a former FBI agent that specialized in civil rights complaints. I’m going to make the wild assumption that his internal bias contributed to the reason he was no longer employed by the FBI’s civil rights department. Here’s a fun fact: at the time, the duty of hiring and firing Canton police officers remained with Gerald Graybill. So that’s not a conflict of interest at all right?
A former Canton Police officer was also interviewed anonymously during the course of the investigation. He stated that some officers feel they are justified in administering “street corner justice,” because they think the criminal justice system allows too many to go unpunished. He also said that brutality in the jail is so common that officers made up a “code word” to describe the beating of an inmate in the basement of the jail. They would call it out over the radio that they were “going to school.”
The criminal justice system in Canton, Ohio rarely punishes police for misconduct. Up until this point, there had only ever been two officers that were ever disciplined for using excessive force. For more info, see my post about Amos Jones).
Of the 25 people interviewed during this investigation: 13 were Black and 12 were white, 10 were women, some had prior records, and 5 said they’d never been arrested before. Of all 25 people, they were all unrelated and their incidents unconnected, but there were a few common points in their stories:
There was no disciplinary action taken against any of the officers involved in these incidents. Let’s also consider that these are just some of the ones that ended up suing the city. How many more stories are there that were never taken to court or talked about in the newspaper?
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: Akron Beacon Journal