I am writing in rebuttal of statements made to RichlandSource.com on Nov. 12, 2020, by Keith Porch, Chief of Police, City of Mansfield, Ohio. Said comments relate to a community forum which the Black/Brown Coalition of Mansfield had scheduled for Nov. 12, 2020, at Providence Baptist Church after obtaining Chief Porch's agreement to attend and to respond to questions from city of Mansfield residents.
On Oct. 23, 2020, the "Coalition" held a Community Forum at Providence Baptist Church and responded to questions from Mansfield residents, approximately 25 in number, who also indicated they desired to pose questions to Mansfield Police Department (MPD) officials, with which the "Coalition" negotiated the "Code of Conduct for the Community and the Mansfield Police Department."
The "Coalition" therefore selected two dates, November 12 or November 19, 2020, for a Community Forum featuring Chief Porch. He was informed the event would also have to be held at Providence Baptist Church in order to accommodate a larger audience than the North End Community Improvement Collaborative could, given COVID-19 restrictions.
When asked which of the two aforementioned dates he could participate in a Community Forum during which he could respond to questions from the community at Providence Baptist Church, he selected the Nov. 12, 2020 date. I then told him I needed to get Pastor Mark Cobb's assurance that the church was available for our use on Nov. 12, 2020, at 6 p.m.
Pastor graciously approved our usage of the church on Nov. 12, 2020, so I then informed Chief Porch that the event would be held on the date he selected. Thus, Chief Porch was well aware of the nature of the event, his role in it, as well as its location, date and time. He also knew the "Coalition" would not know the number of attendees until the evening of the event, since the Community Forum would be open to the public. He was well aware of all the foregoing at least one week before the event.
Chief Porch apparently became alarmed about proceeding with the event when Governor Mike DeWine limited the number of attendees at public events on to ten (10) on Nov. 11, 2020, due to the COVID-19 virus.
I do not believe that churches were limited to that number. I was not opposed, however, to postponing the event in light of Chief Porch being a public official having to enforce the law and told the media so.
What did concern me, however, were his claims to the press that the event was to be held at NECIC, "... would be like the meetings I have attended with coalition members in the past," was surprised when he "...learned the meeting would be open to as many as 130 people at the Providence Baptist Church," and that he "... could not discuss a pending case that involved Officer Jordan Moore and the arrest of two Mansfield residents on West Fourth Street on Oct. 12" (of which the "Coalition" was fully aware and was not asking him to do when he was invited to respond to only questions about the "Code.")
Chief Porch also "phoned" me during the morning of Nov. 12, 2020, while I was at a medical appointment, stating, "We cannot make the meeting tonight. I was unaware you had invited about 130 people up to 230..." The press release announcing the event at Providence Baptist Church stated that the maximum number of people who could be in the church is 130 (due to COVID-19 restrictions). Neither other "Coalition" members nor I invited a specific number of people; only the maximum number of people permitted in the church at the same time was mentioned.
I am responding to the statements made by Chief Porch because they negatively reflect on the integrity and image of the coalition, as well as me personally, which has been confirmed by members of the community. He told the press that "misunderstood communication" was the cause of him not knowing the nature of the event on Nov. 12, 2020, its location, possible attendees and his role. His statement to the press that he thought the event "would be limited in size and at the North End Community Improvement Improvement Collaborative" is without basis.
The Black/Brown Coalition of Mansfield will always be forthright in its statements to and interaction with the Mansfield community. We are still desirous of working with the City of Mansfield/MPD in improving relations between the community and the MPD.
I sincerely believe that compliance with the "Code" by both community members and the MPD can make relations between the parties a model to be emulated nationally.
Consequently, the "Coalition" will again be seeking to hold a Community Forum wherein Chief Porch will be our honored guest for the purpose of responding to questions about the "Code," with the understanding that questions about pending cases regarding discipline of MPD officers or criminal justice will not be allowed.
Inasmuch as meetings between the "Coalition" and the MPD have always been very cordial, we are very puzzled as to why Chief Porch simply did not tell the press that the Community Forum had been postponed due to limitations imposed by Governor DeWine, instead of going further and making wrongful statements that the "Coalition" did not sufficiently inform him of the aforementioned issues regarding the event at Providence Baptist Church scheduled for November 12, 2020.
Onward to better relations between the MPD and the Community of Mansfield, Ohio!
Wayne McDowell, director
Black/Brown Coalition of Mansfield