CLEVELAND — As voters in Cleveland will be asked to decide who should oversee the Cleveland Police Department, proponents and opponents of Issue 24 took their arguments to Cleveland City Council’s Safety Committee on Wednesday. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Cleveland City Council’s Safety Committee hosted a forum Wednesday on Issue 24

  • Issue 24 would form a Community Police Commission if approved by votes Nov. 2

  • The commission would have broad oversight on areas from police misconduct to training and procedures

  • Several city officials voiced opposition to the measure, saying police reforms put in place in 2015 in Cleveland are working

The virtual forum gave Cleveland City Council members an opportunity to ask questions about the issue. If approved, a Community Police Commission would be formed, which in conjunction with the Civilian Police Review Board, would oversee police conduct investigations and discipline. 

If Issue 24 passes, the city’s charter would be amendmended to make the most significant changes to police accountability since the 2015 Department of Justice imposed consent decree went into effect.

Police Chief Calvin Williams argued that the consent decree has been working, noting a more than 50% drop in complaints of officers reported to Cleveland Police in the five years preceding implementation versus the five years following the consent decree.

Williams added that the police averaged 20 instances of deadly force per year from 2011-14. From 2015-20, Williams said the police average 14 incidents of deadly force per year.  

Keizayla Fambro, a supporter of Issue 24, said more needs to be done.

“For far too long, we have seen police officers assault and kill Black and Brown people without consequence,” she said, representing supporters of the issue. “This is why we have come together to organize the fair, independent investigations of police misconduct and get real police accountability.”

Fambro noted that the consent decree could end when it is determined that Cleveland Police has “effectively” implemented the decree’s edicts. 

The commission would have final authority over establishing the policies, applications and examinations by which new police recruits must be sought out and recruited and screened, including screening for bias, and could conduct bias screening with existing members of Cleveland Police.

The Community Police Commission would be a 13-member appointed body. The commission would be “broadly representative of the racial, social, economic, and cultural interests of the community, including those of the racial minority, immigrant/refugee, LGBTQ+, youth, faith, business and other communities, to reflect the overall demographics of Cleveland residents.” Among the commissioners may be up to three police-association members who have been involved in building police-community relations.

Currently, issues of police misconduct and discipline go through the Office of Professional Standards, which then goes to the Civilian Police Review Board. According to the city of Cleveland, the Office of Professional Standards is composed of civilian employees within the Department of Public Safety. 

After the Office of Professional Standards handles and investigates complaints against police, it forwards its findings and recommendations to the Civilian Police Review Board. The Civilian Police Review Board submits its findings and recommendations to the chief of police and notifies the complainant, according to the city. 

Safety Director Karrie Howard expressed frustration with the proposal during Wednesday’s hearing. He claimed that the charter amendment does not provide due process for officers facing discipline. He added that the city has already been screening officers for biases, which he said went into effect in 2015 as part of the consent decree.

“It doesn’t take into consideration the gains that have been made,” Howard said. 

Proponents for the bill said that the Community Police Commission would strengthen community oversight and that the consent decree is “grossly insufficient.”

The entire forum may be seen below: