A proposed change to Cleveland city law would revise the oversight of police discipline, policy and training. The newly formed Citizens for a Safer Cleveland launched their signature-gathering campaign Tuesday in hopes of including the amendment in the November vote.
If the charter in its current form were put on the ballot and voted for by voters, a permanent Cleveland Community Police Commission (CPC) would be established.
“We need to put in place a structure, a permanent structure of police accountability and control,” said LaTonya Goldsby, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, during the launch of the campaign. “We can no longer allow the police to monitor themselves.”
The current iteration of the CPC was created under the Consent Decree with the US Department of Justice as a forum for community contributions to the police department and for making recommendations on departmental guidelines. The city expects to meet the requirements of the consent decree next year and didn’t say whether it intends to keep the CPC in place.
Under the proposed change, the commission would have a guaranteed annual budget of at least $ 1 million and a separate budget for grants equal to 0.5 percent of the Police Division’s budget per year. The commission would consist of 13 members, including one from each police district, one member under 30, law enforcement officials and lawyers working on police misconduct cases.
“Let’s go beyond the debates and frustration and find a solution,” said Subodh Chandra, Cleveland civil rights attorney. “And this solution is very simple: greater civilian control over the police division, greater civilian systems of accountability over the police division.”
The Office of Professional Standards (OPS) and the Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB) currently have limited external oversight of the police agency. OPS is a city agency that only investigates civilian complaints against Cleveland officials and submits the results to the Civilian Police Review Board, which can then recommend disciplinary action to the department or reject the complaint.
The chief of police will decide whether to follow such recommendations, and if there is a dispute, the CPRB may appeal to the City Public Security Director, the police, fire and ambulance member of the Mayor’s Cabinet, on its final appeal.
The proposed change would place that ultimate authority in the hands of a civilian oversight group.
“If the chief executive or chief security officer believes that the board has somehow misunderstood it, they must provide clear and convincing evidence that there is such evidence to justify disregarding or failing to comply with the board’s actual or disciplinary recommendations change, “said Chandra.
Citizens for a Safer Cleveland are now required to collect signatures from 10 percent of city residents who voted in the last general election, or about 6,500 signatures to vote.
During a public safety press conference Tuesday, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson said he was opposed to the CPC’s assumption of the role proposed in the amendment to the statutes.
“I think they’re talking about becoming the police chief,” said Jackson. “I am against the charter amendment that you are proposing.”
Jackson said he supported the current version of the CPC as set out in the consent decree, but did not say whether he would support the continuation of the commission in a similar manner after the consent decree was passed.