The Oberlin Police Department is dedicated to maintaining transparency within the community, and with this consideration, the Police Department is working to develop and articulate departmental policies and practices related to the development of a Police Community Advisory Committee, departmental Use of Force policies and oversight practices, and the enhancement of departmental communication strategies. The intent of these efforts is to maintain openness with the community, as well as to continue to be proactive in the professional services provided by the Oberlin Police Department.
The Oberlin Police Department’s mission continues to be to enhance the quality of life in our community through the protection of life and property, to provide fair and unbiased law enforcement and community partnerships. With the approaches outlined in the attached document and the professionalism of the department, we can continue to build upon the successes of the Oberlin Police Department.
The City of Oberlin and the Oberlin Police Department appreciate the support of City Council and the community in our efforts to fulfill our mission to the citizens of Oberlin. Chief Warfield and Lieutenant McCloskey have an “Open Door Policy” with the community and are willing to discuss these policies and strategies on an individual basis. To contact Chief Warfield and/or Lieutenant McCloskey, please call the Oberlin Police Department at (440) 774-1061.
Oberlin Police Departmental Strategy Development & Enhancement
Police Community Advisory Committee: The Oberlin Police Department promotes positive relationships between department members and the community by treating community members with dignity and respect, engaging them in relationship-building activities, and by making relevant policy and operations information available to the community in a transparent manner. To enhance this initiative, the Oberlin Police Department is in the process of creating an Oberlin Police Community Advisory Committee. The Chief of Police will establish the Police Community Advisory Committee with volunteers consisting of community members and other community stakeholders (e.g. representatives from Oberlin Schools, local churches, businesses, social service organizations, etc.). The makeup of the Committee will reflect the demographics of the community as much as practicable. Depending on the COVID-19 Pandemic, The Police Community Advisory Committee will be established by the first of the 2021 calendar year.
Use of Force Policies and Oversight: The Oberlin Police Department utilizes Lexipol to assist in the development of departmental policies, including Use of Force policies, as well as to train department personnel on policies. Lexipol is a nation-wide service with the primary mission of providing law enforcement agencies with direction through constitutionally sound policies, training, and information. Lexipol reports that they are engaged in a detailed and thorough evaluation of existing policy content related to the Use of Force. This involves careful consideration of changes at the Federal and State level, as well as a realistic and objective consideration of the national conversation regarding the Use of Force, which includes a variety of topics, perspectives, and opinions. Lexipol has recently provided recommended updates regarding the Use of Force Policy language to the Oberlin Police Department and our agency has implemented those changes to our policy. Lexipol will continue to research and improve their policies. This research is a culmination of best practices and as needed the policies can be updated and added into our current manual:
- Duty to Intercede: Content will be recommended to require that potentially excessive force be reported by officers. Content has also been recommended to advise officers that other officers may have additional information and different perspectives of the ongoing situation, and to consider these possibilities when deciding whether to intervene.
- De-Escalation: This new subsection is recommended to require consideration and utilization of tactics, including, when appropriate, crisis intervention techniques, appropriate backup, and alternative strategies to reduce the need for force in a given situation.
- Carotid Control Hold: The best practice for this section will recommend revisions after considerable research. While medical evidence supports this technique as being safer compared to other combative techniques or the use of impact weapons, and research does not support categorizing a properly applied vascular neck restraint as lethal force, determining the best practice for this technique requires consideration of evolving State and Federal law and the ongoing national debate.
- Additional warning requirements before the use of deadly force will be recommended.
- Supervisor Responsibilities: Content will be recommended to ensure that supervisors respond to the scene of any use of force incident when feasible, in addition to their regular duties.
- Additional reporting requirements will be recommended for department members who learn about potential excessive force by an Oberlin Police Department Officer, Lorain County Deputy or an Ohio State Trooper.
- Training is continually updated to include in-person and online trainings.
The Oberlin Police Department highly values employee development and continued education. Department personnel are required to complete regular trainings on department policy through Lexipol’s Police One Training Academy to ensure a working knowledge of department policy, including any policy updates. In addition to policy training, Police Department personnel receive training on Bias Based Policing, De-Escalation, Mental Health Crises, Use of Force and other “Hot Topic Issues.” The Oberlin Police Department spends over $30,000 annually for continued education and training, and ensures that officers maintain State Mandates and Certifications.
In the area of personnel oversight, the Oberlin Police Department has strong management and procedures in place. If there are any complaints of misbehavior by officers reported by the public or observed by management or other personnel, follow-up and/or potential investigations are conducted, depending on the situation. The Oberlin Police Department takes “Use of Force” very seriously, as evident by multiple policies that have been adopted. For example, any Use of Force incident automatically triggers review by Police Administration, which can include review of body camera and/or cruiser camera footage, witness interviews, etc. These review procedures are in place to ensure that department policy is followed.
In another display of department transparency, the Oberlin Police Department annually releases Use of Force Data as part of the Police Department’s Annual Report. In 2019, the Oberlin Police Department had 17,405 calls for service, and of those calls, 709 warranted Incident Reports. Of those 709 incidents, 19 incidents included Use of Force by officers, which can include Physical Force, Taser, Pepper Spray, K-9, Vehicle Pursuits, Impact Weapons, and/or Displaying of Firearms. It should be noted that Use of Force is dependent upon a variety of factors and data can vary significantly from year to year as an officer’s force response to aggression is dictated by the subject’s actions. The Oberlin Police Department’s Use of Force incidents generally constitute a small percentage of public contacts, and when force is used, it is typically at the lower end of the force spectrum.
Communication Strategies: The Oberlin Police Department believes in Community Policing, and in order to enhance this approach, communication strategies have been introduced to increase transparency of policies and practices, to promote services, programs and events, to publicize proactive measures and accomplishments, and to effectively communicate emergency situations. Our goal is to build mutual respect, gain community trust, and to provide quality services.
Besides direct contact with our police professionals, the specific strategy pursued at this time includes website enhancements, promotional campaigns, enhanced internal communications, utilization of the Wireless Emergency Notification System (WENS), and enhanced community engagement.
Website Enhancements: The Oberlin Police Department website will be further developed, as a one-stop shop for information that the public could be referred to for further information. The website will contain two webpages for easy access.
The first section will be titled “Community Policing” that will include information on:
- Safety Town
- Explorer Program
- Transaction Safe Zone
- Vacation/Vacant House Watch
- Project Lifesaver
- Checkmate Program
- Events (National Night Out, Shop with a Cop, etc.)
- Bicycle Safety/Licensing
- Drug Take Back Program/Prescription Drop Box
- Local Business Checks
The second section will be titled “Proactive Policing” that will include information on:
- Lexipol (Based on best practices, constantly updated, required Officer training, etc.)
- Body Cameras
- Ohio Collaborative
- Project Dawn
- Citizen Complaint Process
- Department Annual Reports
Promotional Campaigns: Once website content has been developed, other promotional campaigns can be easily developed as language and speaking points would already be in place. Specific programs, services and events can be further promoted through social media, email blasts, community calendar, press releases, direct mailings, etc. Communication strategies should be developed as time-specific programs/events arise (Safety Town, Drug Take Back Days, National Night Out, etc.), but it is recommended to develop on-going communication campaigns to highlight the Department’s accomplishments and pro-active practices. This can be a “Did You Know…” type of campaign that provides a blurb about the Department’s practices and refers the audience back to the website for more information. This type of campaign should develop regularly scheduled promotions, but could also be altered depending on current events. For example, given the current calls for transparency in police departments, there could be promotion of Oberlin Police Department being the first department in Lorain County to utilize body cameras, or reiterate a specific policy/practice that is in place if it is relevant to current events.
Enhanced Internal Communications: It is crucial that the members of the Department are aware of the messaging that is being developed, as to be able to speak in one voice and to provide effective customer service. It is suggested, at a minimum, that once the website has been updated, that all members of the department are aware of the updates and educate themselves on the content developed. As events, programs, or services are offered or updated, it should be communicated to all members of the department as well. It is also recommended that protocol be developed or reiterated as to the authority to speak on behalf of the Department. This is particularly relevant to the Department’s social media accounts to ensure that accurate information is being disseminated to the community and to ensure that the Police Department Administration is aware of the information provided. Issues related to content development, shared content and responding to comments should be addressed.
Wireless Emergency Notification System (WENS): The Wireless Emergency Notification System (WENS) policy should be reiterated with all members of the Department so that employees understand their role in emergency communications. Information regarding how to register for WENS should also be known by Department members, as to be able to effectively provide this information to the public. Additionally, relevant Department staff should be trained on how to communicate emergency situations via social media and the City’s website if the timing of the situation warrants the Police Department distributing this information.
Community Engagement: With a national focus on policing, the Oberlin Police Department is understanding of the national and local concerns regarding police reform. To this end, the Department will work to further its community engagement strategies to ensure that the community feels comfortable expressing their views and any concerns with the Police Department, as well as to strengthen the relationship between the Department and the community. These strategies can include listening sessions, community surveys, and/or other events and programs that encourage two-way dialogue between the officers and community members. Promotion of these events and programs will utilize a broad range of communication outlets to ensure that all segments of the community are reached.
The Oberlin Police Department utilizes Lexipol to assist in the development of departmental policies, including Use of Force policies, as well as to train department personnel on policies. Lexipol is a nation-wide service with the primary mission of providing law enforcement agencies with direction through constitutionally sound policies, training, and information. Click HERE to learn more about Lexipol’s policy positions in the areas of de-escalation, use of force, carotid restraint and more.
Transaction Safe Zone Program
In an effort to better protect the citizens of Lorain County, the Oberlin Police Department is participating in the county-wide Transaction Safe Zone Program. We welcome the public to our department to show, inspect or purchase property that is for sale through e-commerce sites likes Craigslist and/or close their online transactions in a safer way. Please check the FAQs for more information.
Vacation/Vacant House Watch Request
- Click here to submit a Vacation/Vacant House Watch Form