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Canfield looking to improve

Race, police efforts discussed during community forum

CANFIELD — Toward the end of nearly a two-hour community forum that was even-tempered and fairly relaxed, emotions began to swell.

Held at Fair Park in Canfield, the forum was “to have a respectful conversation with the community about how Canfield currently is addressing diversity, policing and progress,” as explained by organizer and Canfield resident Ashley Kanotz.

While Kanotz was asking leaders if they would be interested in a citizens advisory committee, people from the crowd said she was “fishing” for issues.

Some residents voiced that there aren’t necessarily racial issues in Canfield.

Then a couple more Canfield residents said guests from Youngstown, from Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past, hadn’t had a chance to speak on race or be officially welcomed to Canfield.

“I don’t think this whole meeting was about there being a problem in Canfield. It was more so about getting you guys to know there are problems everywhere else, and maybe to stop those problems from escalating or forming in Canfield. You can let us know ‘we’re on your side’ or make the Youngstown State students, all black, feel welcome to the meeting,” said Ke’Lynn Dean, a YSU freshman.

Dean took note of a gun openly carried by one resident, saying it made him feel anxious.

Kira Walker, a junior at YSU, said the group attended the meeting to make “an already great community” even better.

Following the meeting, people went up to the students to further engage in conversation.

More than 50 people attended the forum, where much of the discussion centered on race.

Police Chief Chuck Colucci said a long-running stigma of Canfield City, and its police department, goes years back and includes people of color not being comfortable going through Canfield in fear of being pulled over and discriminated against.

“History is tough,” he said, noting that in the last 10 years, it has mostly been word of mouth as to why people try to avoid the city.

He provided statistics to the group, such as so far this year, there have been 886 encounters between police and citizens. Out of those encounters, 749 were white people, and 93 were African American.

Colucci said he doesn’t want anyone to be fearful of going to Canfield. He also confirmed the department is looking to make encounters safe between the public and officers.

New body cameras will be arriving in September or October, Colucci said, one for each of the 23 officers the department employs.

The chief said last year, the department’s fleet was updated with dashboard cameras with the anticipation of body cameras coming in the near future.

The new body cameras will be integrated with dash cams, Colucci added.

Funds to purchase the body cameras and software is “just shy of $200,000,” he said, generated by a 2017 police levy and some federal drug forfeiture money.

Also speaking at the forum were City Manager Wade Calhoun, briefly explaining how Canfield’s charter government works, Mayor Richard Duffett, and school board members Jennifer Kluchar and Nader Atway.

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