Akron is evaluating 2 competing proposals for a civilian police review board. Here’s what you need to know

There are now two different plans for an independent oversight board to oversee citizen complaints from the Akron Police Department. Depending on City Council’s actions over the next few weeks, Akron voters will know whether they will decide on the review board next year or as early as November.

Akron residents have been calling for a civilian police review board for years, but the recent police shooting of an unarmed black man, 25-year-old Jayland Walker, has brought it to the forefront. citizens and elected officials.

Two different options have recently emerged: a charter amendment drafted by community groups that could be voted on in the November election and an ordinance from the mayor’s office that will be considered by the Akron City Council in September.

Members of local groups, including Freedom BLOC and the Akron NAACP, delivered more than 7,000 signatures on a petition to the city clerk’s office on Tuesday. If it makes the vote and is approved by voters, the review committee would become part of the official city charter.

Meanwhile, Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan also announced on Tuesday that he plans to propose a
order to city council next month. Horrigan’s proposal, if passed, would create the review board but would not immediately codify it into the city charter. The order specifies that the ultimate goal is to submit a charter amendment to voters in November 2023, according to the document.

Lack of time for the modification of the charter

For the Community Groups Vote initiative to be added to the ballot, 2,678 of the 7,000 signatures collected must come from registered Akron voters, or 10% of the number of voters who participated in the last municipal elections, a said Bill Rich, President. of the Summit County Board of Elections.

The Board of Elections will review the signatures in the coming days and the City Council Clerk is verifying that the initiative meets the requirements of the City Charter.

If everything passes, the city council must call a meeting to officially put the charter amendment on the ballot, Rich said.

The meeting should take place by September 9 for the initiative to qualify for the November 2022 general election, he said. If the council does not meet in time, there will have to be a special election specifically for the ballot measure – which would not happen until January 2023 at the earliest.

“That’s why there’s some time pressure here,” Rich said.

The city council’s next regular meeting is on September 12, when they are due to consider Horrigan’s proposal.

Rich is also a professor emeritus of law at the University of Akron and offered perspective on several possible outcomes that could occur depending on the council’s actions in the coming weeks.

If the city council doesn’t hold a meeting by Sept. 9 and a special election is forced, it could impact voter turnout, he said.

“It definitely affects turnout, and it can be confusing for some voters,” Rich said. “People aren’t used to voting in January…there will be people who run in the general election in November who don’t run in a special election in January.”

Moreover, it will cost more to hold another election just a few months after the general, he added.

“At the end of the day, the ratepayers and the City of Akron will end up…paying more for this than if it had been voted on in November,” Rich said.

If the city council passes Horrigan’s ordinance — and the charter amendment ends up voting and also passes — the ordinance would need to be changed so that it adheres to the charter amendment, he said. he declares.

“An ordinance cannot trump the city charter,” Rich said. “There would be conflicts between the ordinance and the charter.”

The boards offered are similar, but not exactly the same

The two proposed review boards are similar, but there are key differences, Rich added. The two review boards would review citizen complaints against the police, issue recommendations on how the department can improve, offer feedback on trainings and focus on community engagement.

In the charter amendment, the review board can conduct its own investigations into potential police misconduct, if there is the support of at least two-thirds of the board.

The mayor’s proposal clarifies that while the council will investigate complaints, all investigations will be conducted internally by the Akron Police Department or assigned to state or federal authorities. Investigations would then be reviewed by the council once completed.

One of the biggest differences is the number of board members and how they would be appointed.

In the citizens’ vote initiative, the council would consist of nine members – three people appointed by the mayor and six by the city council. Members would be required to come from a variety of backgrounds, and some must specifically have worked in areas related to mental health, criminal justice and law enforcement.

Mayor Horrigan proposed an 11-member review board, all appointed by the mayor with the consent of city council. The proposal calls for some members to have training in criminal justice, racial equity and law enforcement. Members are expected to attend the police service‘s Citizens’ Academy and complete 40 hours of “company walks” with officers.

Another key difference is that the mayor’s proposal creates a new department, the Office of Inspector General, which would review the laws and procedures of the police department and other city employees.

The charter amendment outlines an Office of the Independent Police Auditor, which would review police practices. Akron currently has one police auditor, Phillip Young. The amendment does not specify whether the current police auditor would fill the new position that would be created.

Both review panels would be required to issue regular reports on their actions and recommendations.

If the review board initiative passes, the wording of the ballot presented to voters — a short and precise summary of the charter amendment — still needs to be written, Rich added. Either the city council can draft the proposed wording or the board of elections will create it, he said.

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