Police in the northeast Ohio city of Akron have switched to working in pairs on all shifts instead of sometimes patrolling alone after recent violence against local officers and concern about anti-police sentiment linked to officer-involved deaths.
Temporarily having two officers per patrol car – a system they use on night shifts but haven’t used around the clock since the late 1990s – is meant to help them feel safer, Chief James Nice told the Akron Beacon Journal.
“It’s just a bad environment right now for police officers,” Nice said. “It’s very volatile.”
The context is both local and national. In the past month, an off-duty Akron officer was fatally shot at a pub, and another officer was assaulted while making an arrest. Meanwhile, local demonstrators have protested deaths attributed to police in Akron, Cleveland, New York and Ferguson, Missouri.
Nice said he wants officers to build public trust and try to be more accommodating, and he advised them not to stop drivers for minor infractions.
“It’s legal to pull a car over for a license plate light being burned out, but do you really want to do those things?” he said.
He said the practice of always pairing officers means fewer patrol cars around the city but doesn’t necessarily mean fewer officers or a lower level of service.
The local police union supports the concept.
“We are being targeted by people shooting off their mouths,” said Officer Paul Hlynsky, president of the department’s Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7. “But we’re not intimidated by it either. We will continue to do our jobs legally and safely.”
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