AKRON, Ohio — Following a rocky two-year tenure largely overshadowed by an incident that garnered national attention, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett has announced his resignation effective at the end of the year.
According to a release from Mayor Dan Horrigan's office, Mylett will be retiring from law enforcement altogether and will instead take a job in the private sector. He will leave the position on Jan. 1, 2024, the same day Horrigan is set to exit office after two terms.
Mylett released the following statement:
"It is with great difficulty that I make this decision to step away, but I do think the time is right based on many different factors. I am proud to end my 35 years in policing here in Akron. I want to thank Mayor Horrigan for the privileged opportunity to lead the men and women of the Akron Police Department. I also want to thank the APD employees for welcoming me into the Department and for the exceptional work they do every day — I am proud to be called a member of this agency. Additionally, I want to thank the Akron community for embracing my family and I as we settled in this beautiful city."
A native of Long Island, New York, Mylett previously served as chief of police in Southlake, Texas, and Bellevue, Washington before being hired to lead Akron's department in August of 2021. He pledged to "work with the community to develop a pathway towards greater security and trust," but those goals took a hit during the early morning hours of June 27, 2022, when eight Akron officers shot and killed 25-year-old Jayland Walker following a pursuit.
Though Walker — a Black man — was later found to have fired a weapon out of his car during the chase, he was not armed at the time of his death, and an autopsy eventually confirmed he had been hit by more than 40 police bullets. The incident and subsequent release of the body camera footage caused an uproar in the community, leading to mass protests and a successful ballot initiative calling for a civilian oversight board of the police department.
"We were losing faith in his direction of honesty and that sense of integrity," Akron NAACP President Judi Hill said of Mylett. "Whether they admit it publicly in front of all of us, anyone in their right mind knows that shooting at an individual 90 times — one individual, that many officers — is way too much."
Through the ordeal, Mylett attempted to remain a stoic presence in the city, supporting his officers while also expressing grief over Walker's loss. A grand jury eventually declined to criminally indict the eight officers involved, but Walker's family has since filed a $45 million federal lawsuit that names both Mylett and Horrigan as defendants, among others.
"This past year has been very difficult for many, many people, and the road ahead to regain what was lost will be no easy feat," Mylett acknowledged Tuesday. "However, I hold tremendous optimism for the future of this city, and I know everyone in this city wants a safe and secure Akron in order to raise our families and to live in peace. Together, we can achieve our vision."
Horrigan himself had previously declined to seek a third term last October, and Ward 8 Councilman Shammas Malik will face no general election opponent after winning the Democratic mayoral primary this past spring. Following Mylett's announcement, Malik issued the following statement about finding a replacement via social media:
"Today, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett announced his plans to depart his role at the end of the year for a new professional opportunity. I want to thank Chief Mylett for his service to our community over these last two years, and I wish him well in his next steps. In the coming weeks, our transition team will work in partnership with Mayor Horrigan’s administration to begin a search process for the next chief of the Akron Police Department, which will be open to internal and external candidates. Safety will be my administration’s top priority. A central goal of my administration will be making sure the Akron Police Department is an effective, forward-focused organization, able to respond to calls for service while also prioritizing proactive, community-based policing. That means building trust through transparency and accountability, and also focusing on retention and attraction of officers to ensure our safety forces have the training, support, and work environment they need to be successful. I look forward to working in partnership with every member of the Akron Police Department, as well as our entire community, to create a safer Akron."
3News' Neil Fischer also spoke with Malik about the upcoming departure of Mylett. The presumptive mayor of Akron said having the job of police chief "would've been difficult for anyone," but added that he didn't think that Mylett's resignation was needed.
One thing that Malik says he will be looking for in a new chief is someone who is equipped to handle a large police force. "Certainly the experience of having managed a lot of people when it comes to a department that's over 400 people."
Mylett says he will assist the mayor-presumptive in the search for his successor.
"I want to thank Chief Mylett for his outstanding, dedicated service to our community through a very trying time," Horrigan wrote. "I know Steve to be a man of honor with the utmost care for the communities he has served. Akron was lucky to have him at the helm, and I am grateful to have had him by my side through the last two years. I wish him and his family the best in their future endeavors."
Watch Lydia Esparra's interview with Mylett from back in April: