AKRON CITY COUNCIL
OFFICE OF COUNCIL PRESIDENT MARGO SOMMERVILLE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Joan M. Williams, Chief of Staff, Akron City Council
firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-375-2258
Akron City Council Releases Report on Reimagining Public Safety Focus Groups in Partnership with University of Akron Research Team
Akron, Ohio, September 24, 2021 - Today, Akron City Council and the UA research team released a report summarizing the results of focus groups conducted to solicit community feedback about policing and public safety. Earlier this year, Akron City Council announced plans to collaborate with a team of faculty and students at the University of Akron (UA) to conduct these focus groups as part of Council’s ongoing Reimagining Public Safety initiative.
The focus group project, conducted by five faculty and 20 students, was coordinated by Dr. Rebecca Erickson, Chair of the Departments of Anthropology and Sociology. Members of the community from each Akron City Ward participated in 21 focus groups in the spring of 2021. Participants shared concerns about feeling unsafe in Akron, as well as concerns relating to police-community relations, the amount and type of policing in the city, and issues relating to police training and resources. Focus group participants also shared ideas for potential solutions, including alternatives to police response, a need for more community policing outside of patrol cars, and greater depth and breadth in policing training – all of which were part of Council’s Reimagining Public Safety Report of Recommendations, released in January 2021.
“From the beginning of this process, one our priorities has been engaging residents in conversations about public safety and police reform,” said Margo Sommerville, President of Council. “We are so thankful to the University of Akron team that helped gather community input through a formal research process. The perspectives shared by residents in these focus groups align with the approaches that Council has been pursuing, and will help guide our work going forward.”
“Public safety is a top concern for The University of Akron and we must work together to have the impact we need,” said University of Akron President Gary L. Miller. “We are pleased that Dr. Erickson and our students are involved in this project.”
“We are especially grateful to the Akron community members who took the time to share their experiences and suggestions with our research team,” said Dr. Rebecca Erickson, Principal Investigator of the UA research project. “We also appreciate the opportunity provided by the Council for our students and faculty to serve the Akron community in this way. Faculty and students at UA look forward to deepening our partnerships with city representatives and community organizations as, together, we continue creating the Akron we all envision and deserve.”
The complete Engaging the Public to Re-Imagine Public Safety in Akron Report can be found here.
Throughout the fall, Council’s Reimagining Public Safety committee will meet frequently to continue discussions about public safety reforms and solutions to gun violence. On September 13th, Council heard from experts about alternative response models, in which mental health and social service professionals respond to some low-risk 911 calls. On October 4th, Council will hear about innovative public safety camera programs in Kansas City, MO and New Orleans, LA.
Council’s Reimagining Public Safety initiative seeks to directly address residents’ calls for more equitable systems of policing, strengthen bonds of trust between community and law enforcement, and ultimately help create safer neighborhoods and a safer Akron.