Akron City Council Calls Special Meeting to Put Civilian Review Committee on November Ballot | New
Updated: 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, September 7, 2022
Akron residents will likely get a chance to vote on establishing a civilian police review board in November.
The Summit County Board of Elections verified thousands of signatures on a petition compiled by advocacy groups including Freedom BLOC and Akron NAACP.
State law requires the city council to now approve an ordinance placing the initiative on the ballot. The Board has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday, September 8 at 2 p.m. to formally put the amendment to the November 2022 ballot.
Akron advocacy groups, including the local NAACP chapter and Freedom BLOC, on Tuesday provided additional details of the proposed ballot initiative that would create a civilian oversight board.
The review board’s intent is to improve community and police relations and provide better oversight of Akron police, said Judi Hill, president of the Akron NAACP.
It would give community members more information about police procedures, training and misconduct investigations, she said.
“Our goal is very, very simple. (Give) all citizens of Akron the opportunity to participate, to be part of the process from start to finish,” Hill said.
Hill spoke alongside other community leaders, as well as elected officials and clergy, at a press conference at First Congregational Church in Akron.
Although a civilian review board has been in the works for years, the ballot initiative was sparked by the death of Jayland Walker, 25, an unarmed black man who was fatally shot by Akron police. in June.
More than 7,000 people have signed a petition to get the review board involved in the November ballot, Hill said. The proposal is a charter amendment, which means that if approved, it would be codified in the city’s charter.
The lawyers said a key part of the plan was to expand and strengthen the role of city police auditor, a position created in 2007 and currently held by Phillip Young.
The police auditor currently doesn’t have much power to influence change, Freedom BLOC executive director Ray Greene said at the press conference.
“The role does not have access to records and any complaints it receives must be forwarded to the police department for investigation. The current police auditor is currently barred from investigating any officers involved in misconduct,” Greene said.
There have also been staffing issues in the police auditor’s office over the years, Ward 8 Councilor Shammas Malik added.
The charter amendment would create a 3-person office with a full-time auditor, an assistant auditor and an assistant, he said. The Citizens Review Board would oversee the auditor with hiring and firing power.
“It is really crucial that the police auditor does not report directly and his job is not directly managed by the mayor or the council, because there may be times when he has to disagree with the mayor or the council. city council,” Malik said.
The Citizens Review Board would not impose discipline or changes directly. While he would review internal misconduct investigations and offer perspective, Malik added that he would not conduct any investigations himself.
Malik acknowledged that the city may have to renegotiate its contract with the police union if the charter amendment passes.
“It can’t mean we tie our hands. It can’t mean we don’t pursue justice,” Malik said. “Contracts are renegotiated all the time.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Dan Horrigan announced last week that he plans to propose an ordinance to city council with a similar plan for a civilian review board.
Horrigan proposes an 11-member council all appointed by the mayor, while the community groups petition calls for a 9-member council with 3 appointed by the mayor and the remainder by the city council.
Proponents of the charter amendment believe their proposal is stronger and more inclusive. Hill said the mayor’s order did not focus on citizens.
“The mayor would select people, the mayor would suggest what their role was…and I thought, well, this is not a citizens’ review board. There’s nothing about the citizens involved in it,” Hill said.
Hill and others said they were surprised when Horrigan’s proposal was announced the same day petitions were delivered to the city clerk’s office.
“I don’t think they took our petition campaign very seriously maybe at first. I do not know. I don’t know if they thought we would be able to collect the signatures in time,” Hill said.
Another key difference is that Horrigan’s proposal is an ordinance, which means that if passed, the review board would not be immediately codified in the city charter. Charter amendments are superior to ordinances.