Residents share pain of alleged police abuses with Council

May 06, 2009

A little more than a half-dozen residents asked Council's Public Safety Committee Monday afternoon to hold the Akron Police Department accountable for alleged abuses, including a January incident involving an Akron woman.

Debra Twymon offered an emotional plea for an investigation into four Akron and University of Akron police officers accused of using excessive force against her daughter, Sharea Twymon, during an altercation that took place in a Subway restaurant parking lot on East Exchange Street the weekend of Jan. 24.

"I stand pleading for those four officers who committed a hate crime to be brought to justice," Twymon said. "Please do your duty and make sure these police officers face some type of charges for doing the wrong they have done."

Sharea Twymon accused the officers involved of verbally and physically assaulting her, and sexually assaulting her with a Taser when she arrived at the scene in hopes of retrieving her boyfriend's car before it was impounded after his arrest on a traffic violation. She was taken into custody, but charges of resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and obstruction were dropped.

"This whole situation has opened my eyes," said Sharea Twymon, 25. "I never thought it could happen to me."

Akron Police Capt. Paul Calvaruso was present to address the committee. He said the incident is under investigation and the department is working closely with the Independent Police Auditor on the matter, but certain factors must be ironed out before any conclusions are made.

"There were University of Akron officers there, so we have to sort through which officers from which department were there," Calvaruso said. "Since the incident also involves reserve officers, we may need more information. But this is a process and we will work closely with the auditor."

Public Safety Committee Chair Jim Shealey (At Large) invited the residents and police captain to address the meeting after Twymon's family and other residents called on him for help getting their concerns through to Akron Police. Others to address the committee included Johnson Stephens, brother of Jeffrey Stephens who was shot by Akron police officers responding to a call of shots fired in July of last year. Community leaders and other residents also shared accounts of alleged police abuses.

"We need to hear what's going on," Shealey said. "Hopefully we can get a better dialogue between the community and the police department."

Shealey said he is glad to offer Council as an outlet to allow residents to express their concerns, but he also appreciates the difficult job that Akron Police officers do on a daily basis.

"As chair of the Public Safety Committee I realize there are always two sides to everything," Shealey said. "Our police officers do a darn good job, but if a rogue officer is out there then that's who we need to identify and get off of our streets."

Council President Marco Sommerville (W-3) echoed Shealey's praise for Akron Police, reminding residents of the shared duty to make their difficult jobs easier to carry out.

"A lot of things need to be worked out, but I think we are making progress," Sommerville said. "We as a community have to understand the job the police department has to do. When we're stopped by the police we have to cooperate."