LIMA — Jamie Dixon, a 27-year-old service coordinator for National Church Residences, admitted to difficulties at times working with local police, with officers seemingly having preconceptions at times when they see him.
“It’s sad when the first question I get asked when I get pulled over is, ‘Whose car is this?’” he said.
Dixon referenced an incident last year in which an officer pulled his brother and him over for driving through a red light.
“The cop had a hand on his holster when he was walking up,” he said.
Starting from that stop, Dixon said the situation ended with his car surrounded by police cars, and his brother and him sitting on the curb while a drug-sniffing dog searched his car.
“I never ended up getting a ticket, no apology, nothing,” he said.
Marquise Valentine, a 22-year-old aspiring professional boxer, remembers similar situations as a teenager where police seemed to single out young black people.
“Once, some of us were standing out by my friend’s house kicking it, and there’s a crazy house party a block away, with people parked in the grass, drinking, everything,” he said. “Police came up to us and didn’t care about what they were doing.”
Power of perception
Dixon is hopeful the community-oriented policing initiative can help prevent similar situations in the future for other young black people in Lima.
“It’s all about perception,” he said. “If you don’t have relationships with us, the perception remains.”
That perception was what Paul Curtis Sr. said led to the death of his 21-year-old son, Devontae Williams, when 17-year-old Kevin Godsey tried to outrun police in July 2014. Godsey crashed the van he was driving into a car containing Williams at the intersection of Kibby Street and Central Avenue when he ran the red light during the chase. Williams was killed.
“I blame Lima police and their tactics that harass the hell out of our kids,” Curtis said at the sentencing hearing for Godsey.
Godsey said he ran from police out of fear.
“The only reason I fled is because I was scared about how things might turn out based on what I saw on TV,” Godsey said.
Assistant Allen County Prosecutor Jana Emerick defended police at the hearing saying officers were doing their job.
“To suggest otherwise is both ignorant and irresponsible,” Emerick said.
Allen County Common Pleas Judge Jeffrey Reed did not handle that case, but said he has had a very low number of defendants, he estimated six in 18 years on the bench, blame race for the way their cases were handle in the court system.
“If I have them, generally they come from the individual defendants after they have received their sentencing claiming they felt like they were treated unfairly because of their race,” Reed said.
When it happens, Reed explains to the defendant the reasons he issued the sentence. He said concerns are raised based on perception not fact.
“I don’t know if there’s anything a court can do to make them feel any different than what they feel,” Reed said.
Reed said race is never a consideration.
Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin has said the same over the years when faced with criticism that his officers target blacks. He also has repeatedly said if an officers did that he would be in serious trouble.
Lima Police have faced heavy criticism over pinpoint policing which uses crime mapping software to show where the crime is occurring. Police then flood the areas with officers.
“I certainly have heard people saying pinpoint policing is a bad thing because they feel it unfairly targets minorities. We do not target minorities,” Martin said.
The criticism boiled over following the killing of a woman holding her baby in 2008 during a drug raid by an officer who heard gunfire and fired. The officer later learned the gunfire was coming from other officers directed at dogs. Tarika Wilson was killed and her baby shot twice but survived.
Wilson’s killing sparked outrage in the black community and caught national attention.
While the criticism of police tactics such as pinpoint policing catch a lot of attention, Martin said there are people in the black community who support and want pinpoint policing, which targets even simple crime like loud music and people walking in the street. Those are not major crimes, but are two of the leading problems people have concerns about, Martin said.
“I’ve also heard from a lot of people in the communities they want us in those neighborhoods where the crimes are occurring and they want us protecting them,” the chief said.
The bigger crimes that affect the black neighborhoods, as well as the rest of the community, are drug crimes or crimes related to drugs such as thefts and home burglaries which often occur to get money to buy drugs.