CLEVELAND — Either Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley or nonprofit leader Justin Bibb will replace Mayor Frank Jackson following the November election, thus being tasked with overseeing the Cleveland Police Department. 

What You Need To Know

  • The two remaining Cleveland mayoral candidates debated for 90 minutes on Monday

  • One major disagreement is on Issue 24, which would shift oversight of the police department

  • Kevin Kelley, the current Cleveland City Council president, opposes Issue 24 while nonprofit executive Justin Bibb is supportive

  • Voters will decide the next mayor of Cleveland and Issue 24 during the Nov. 2 election

How much oversight the next administration will have will be up to voters. 

In addition to deciding on a new mayor, voters will also weigh in on Issue 24, which would overhaul the oversight structure of the Cleveland Police Department. 

Kelley opposes Issue 24 while Bibb endorses the issue. Both weighed in on the issue during Monday’s Cleveland mayoral debate held at the City Club of Cleveland. 

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. 

Bibb said his perspective on the issue was shaped by being the son of a police officer. 

“In the city, we have spent $30 million over the last 10 years settling police misconduct claims,” Bibb said. “I believe Issue 24 is a positive step in the right direction to make sure we have more community voices around the table. Trust between residents and the police is critical to ensure that every community is safe and secure.” 

As the debate aired, members of Cleveland City Council weighed a resolution opposing Issue 24. 

“Issue 24 would make our neighborhoods less safe,” Kelley said. “Issue 24 would result in hundreds of officers leaving the job. Issue 24 would result in slower response times. We need to look at what we have in place, which is the consent decree.”

Kelley said that the number of complaints and use of force cases have dropped since the consent decree was installed in 2015. 

“How many dollars have gone out since the consent decree?” Kelley said. “Those are things going back to 1975 that we are paying right now.” 

The decision to change police oversight comes as homicides are trending up in the city. Last year, there were 177 homicides in the city of Cleveland, which is more than double from 2010. 

As of Monday, there were 131 homicides in 2021, which was six more than at the same time in 2020. 

In addition to Kelley’s opposition, Jackson and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams also oppose the issue. 

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.

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.

Currently, the Civilian Police Review Board will review complaints against officers and make recommendations to the safety director. The safety director ultimately makes the final decision on discipline. If passed, Issue 24 would give Community Police Commission this power.

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.