Ohio City Swears in New Police Chief: 'Let Us Move Forward Together'

May 28, 2024
“Never as a 21-year-old University of Akron student working at Swenson’s to help pay for college did I see myself as your chief of police," said new Akron Police Chief Brian Harding.

By Molly Walsh

Source cleveland.com

CLEVELAND—Brian Harding, Akron’s acting police chief since January, officially became the department’s leader Tuesday.

Harding has led the force since Steve Mylett retired. He was named a finalist for the position in April.

Akron Mayor Shammas Malik administered the oath at the Akron Civic Theatre’s Knight Stage.

“Never as a 21-year-old University of Akron student working at Swenson’s to help pay for college did I see myself as your chief of police, but I am truly humbled by the opportunity,” Harding said after being sworn in.

He was promoted to the position last week after a monthslong, controversial hiring process.

The city decided to hire internally after first announcing a nationwide search for the position. State and local laws do not give the city clear authority to hire from the outside, Malik said earlier this year.

The reversal drew criticism from residents, who pushed for a search that included racially diverse candidates.

Harding addressed the crowd Tuesday, thanking his family and city officials for support. He said his primary goal as chief of police is to foster meaningful relationships with residents.

“Regardless of what community you live in, your voice matters, and your concerns will be heard,” he said. “Building these relationships is just not about earning trust, it is about creating a shared vision for a safer, more prosperous future.”

He also said he wants the department to focus on community engagement and reducing crime. He also plans to push recruiting and retaining officers.

“Community engagement is not a buzzword; it is the heartbeat of effective policing,” he said. “We must actively listen, learn and collaborate. I look forward to connecting. I will attend neighborhood events and engage with residents.

“I will seek out community leaders, faith-based organizations, schools, businesses and our youth to build partnerships. Together, we will identify priorities, address concerns and celebrate our collective success.”

Harding said he wants to create an environment where every resident feels valued and respected.

“Each member of the Akron Police Department family, every community member and all our stakeholders play a vital role,” he said. “Let us move forward together, united by a shared purpose to create a safer, more inclusive community.”

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