AKRON, Ohio — On Tuesday, the Akron Police Department announced that the eight officers who have been on paid administrative leave for more than three months due to their involvement in the shooting death of Jayland Walker are back on duty.
According to a release, officers have been reassigned to "administrative duty." They will not be in the community on patrol, but will provide internal support in non-uniform roles until the investigation is complete.
"It is a relatively common practice to have officers return to the workplace on administrative desk duty," explains Case Western Reserve University policing expert Daniel Flannery.
The release from Akron police stated that a main reason for Chief Steve Mylett's decision to reinstate the eight officers is due to staffing numbers. The department confirmed to 3News that they are down about 50 officers and they were "on the verge of having to make some difficult decisions to cut or suspend services or the types of calls we respond to."
"Our responsibility also includes the safety concern that the community shares, so filling this role relieves the stress on those other areas so we can continue that continuity of service," Akron Police Lt. Michael Miller told 3News' Emma Henderson in an interview.
"I'm not sure you can get complete community agreement and input on all sides on an issue that's as sensitive as this, but without the specific details the chief took, I'm glad there was some attempt to reach out to the community," Flannery said.
Henderson also spoke with Akron NAACP President Judi Hill about the reinstatement of the eight officers. Hill says she is disappointed in the decision, and that she got about a 20 minute heads up before it was announced. But she also said moving forward, the Akron NAACP plans to continue to keep lines of communication open with the APD and the chief's office, knowing they won't always agree.
According to Lt. Miller, Mylett spoke with at least two separate community and faith-based leaders when making the decision on whether or not officers should return.
One community group, The Freedom BLOC (Black Led Organizing Collaborative), expressed anger over the decision to reinstate the eight Akron police officers.
"This is unacceptable, and our community is outraged," The Freedom BLOC wrote in a statement. "The day after the Akron community came together to call for Justice for Jayland Walker and marched for unity, Akron Police Chief Steve Mylett made the decision to allow the eight officers involved in Jayland Walker’s murder back to work. That is the exact opposite of what the Walker family and our community have been demanding for the past 106 days."
Hours after Mylett's announcement, the attorneys for the Walker family, Ken Abbarno and Bobby DiCello, released a statement in response to the reinstatement of the officers. "The planning behind the decision to reinstate the police officers involved in this summer’s tragic killing of Jayland Walker is callous and ignores the Walker family’s needs for a fair process," the statement read in part.
The shooting happened in the overnight hours of June 27 amid a chase. Police say Walker had fired a shot at one point during the vehicle pursuit, but was unarmed at the time officers opened fire when the chase was continued on foot.
A gun was later found in Walker's vehicle, according to police.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations is continuing their review of the incident. Once the BCI's investigation is complete, the case will be submitted to the Summit County Grand Jury for evaluation.