Opinion | Jaime FitzSimons: Working to maintain the highest standard of conduct for Summit County deputies
Summit County sheriff
As your sheriff, I take a strong stand with the professional and caring men and women of law enforcement who keep our community safe 24 hours a day. I take an equally strong stand to remove from office law enforcement deputies who disgrace the badge and the oath that they take to serve the public. I will continue to stand up and speak out in contrast to any activist who comes into our community and shares stories of police brutality from law enforcement officers in Summit County that are blatant lies.
In Summit County, over the past three decades, there have been three law-enforcement shootings, none resulting in death. Sadly, two previous sheriff’s have experienced three deaths in the Summit County Jail during its operation starting in 1985.
The Summit County Sheriff’s Office operates in both the uniform Patrol Division and Jail Division under nationally recognized and excepted policies of operation. We issue deputies daily electronic training bulletins on all policy topics to include use of force, cultural awareness, anti-bias and freedom of speech under First Amendment rights to test their knowledge of the topics.
We use reality-based training, conducted twice a month for over 240 hours of annual training, teaching our deputies to respond appropriately along a continuum that starts with deescalation of an incident through the appropriate or necessary use of force. A reporter of the Summit Daily News has participated as an actor in these trainings as reported in his article from August 2018.
To provide some perspective, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office in 2019 responded to over 28,000 calls from residents for assistance and processed over 1,800 bookings in the Summit County Jail. Of these contacts with the public, the Sheriff’s Office self-investigated — on my direction of following policies of strict professionalism and standards of conduct — 24 instances where deputies used hands-on tactics to control an individual, used less-than-lethal devices, or drew and pointed weapons at an individual. All 24 instances of use of force were reviewed, which resulted in a use-of-force review ratio of 0.0001. Thirteen of the use-of-force reports involved individuals being humanely placed in a restraint chair by Summit County Jail deputies following our strict policies to prevent the inmate from hurting themselves.
The Sheriff’s Office self-initiates and investigates every use of force under our policies, and we do this with or without a complaint regarding any of our actions. As sheriff, I do this to maintain the highest standard of expectation of conduct of the men and women of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
I am assuring the public that we thoroughly review and examine every incident that we classify as a use or display of force. As your sheriff, I personally review every report as I am ultimately responsible for all decisions and actions of the deputies to whom I extend my oath of office.
I use the oath of office swearing-in ceremony to restate and reaffirm the solemn commitment deputies are taking and expected to uphold when they wear the badge of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office.
The last use of force with a firearm by the Summit County Sheriff’s Office in 2016 was recently reported on by the District Attorney’s Office. The individual in that incident recently pled guilty to first-degree assault with a deadly weapon and was sentenced to the Department of Corrections.
I am proud of the men and women who serve throughout the Summit County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Summit County. I welcome and will eagerly participate in any open dialogue on improving law enforcement practices that are not disguised in political agenda talking points.
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