AKRON, Ohio — The Akron NAACP will host a press conference Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the First Congregational Church, 292 E. Market St.
The event is to address a community-led charter amendment proposal to improve police-communitity relations by creating a Citizens' Police Oversight Board for Akron.
Akron's police auditor role was created in 2007 and has had challenges, according to the news release, including part-time staffing, a lack of access to information and a lack of independence from city government.
City government and the community have focused on improving the oversight role in recent years.
The charter amendment was crafted by community leaders who relied on a variety of recommendations and reports, including Akron City Council’s Reimagining Public Safety initiative and the City of Akron Racial Equity and Social Justice Task Force.
Akron NAACP, Freedom BLOC, and other community organizers gathered 7,000 signatures to put the amendment on the ballot, more than two times the number of required signatures.
According the NAACP release, the proposed Charter amendment would provide:
- Codifying the city’s commitment to policing practices that include de-escalation techniques, race and implicit bias training, non-lethal force options, community policing skills, mediation and conflict management and mental health crisis intervention techniques.
- Establishing a Citizens’ Police Oversight Board consisting of nine members. Members would be representative of the diverse communities within the City of Akron, and the amendment seeks to ensure the representation of a variety of perspectives, including that of law enforcement.
- Providing adequate staffing and funding for an Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA). The OIPA and the Board will provide external and independent oversight and review of policing practices within the City of Akron, Ohio. The Independent Police Auditor will be appointed and removed by the Board, without direct involvement from City Council or the Mayor.
The proposal will not provide the Board or OIPA with any power to control police practices or discipline, but would allow for citizen oversight of Akron Police Department investigations into misconduct and citizen recommendations around Akron Police Department policies and procedures—such as vehicle chase or traffic stop practices.
“I am hopeful that this petition will give our community something positive to rally around—to make progress in combating racial disparities, strengthening accountability for wrongdoing, and building community trust with law enforcement,” said Shammas Malik, Akron City Council member and petitioner.
Rev. Dr. Rodrick Pounds, a member of the Racial Equity Taskforce, voiced his support as well.
“The citizens’ review board is not requesting to mandate police policy, but merely asking for the opportunity to review police behavior: nothing more and nothing less,” Pounds said in the news release.
Reverend Nanette Pitt said in the release that the time is always right to do what is right.
“This petition will allow the citizens of Akron to make meaningful change,” Pitt said. “Given the killing of Jayland Walker, we cannot implement this change too soon. The community and civic leaders have been calling for changes for decades and this petition finally comes after years of recommendations and diligent work. Now is the time!”
“Justice for all serves the healing, health, and wellness of the entire community,” said Judi Hill, President of the Akron NAACP.