Issue 24 gave new powers to the Civilian Police Review Board, but so far not much has changed
The members of the Civilian Police Review Board meet once a month, as they have always done. There are eight at the moment, with one free place.
At these monthly meetings, investigators from the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) present their investigations of civil complaints against Cleveland police officers.
The Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB) votes on whether the complaint should be upheld or dismissed and, if upheld, recommends disciplinary action to the police chief.
This is how it worked before issue 24 passed and this is how it works now.
“They have a lot to do,” said Kareem Henton, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Cleveland. “I think they have a lot of reading to do as I don’t think they are fully aware of the new rules that govern them.”
When voters passed Number 24 in November, the discussion focused on new police oversight powers given to the Community Policing Commission (CPC). But the new Section 115 of the Charter also transformed another body – the CPRB.
In the new rules that are now part of section 115 of the Charter, the chief of police is required to follow the recommendations of the council. The CPRB can also itself initiate investigations into police misconduct, issue subpoenas and call witnesses.
The OPS, which was part of the Ministry of Public Security, came under the aegis of the CPRC. One of the board‘s responsibilities is to ensure that it has all the necessary staff.
“They don’t have all the investigators they need,” Henton said. “They don’t have the CEO who would pretty much oversee the inner workings of PAHO.”
According to CPRC President Michael Hess, the focus is currently on resolving complaint cases and waiting for OPS vacancies to be filled.
“Since the personnel and employment situation in PAHO has been kind of in flux, I think that’s something we’ve been waiting for moving forward with anything,” said Hess. “You can see in our meetings, there is very little time to discuss outside things. Maybe policy items related to specific cases. But it’s quite difficult to have high-level conversations.
Hess doesn’t know what role the CPRB will play in hiring the new OPS administrator, who oversees all investigations. The administrator left at the end of last year. The city just posted for this job last week.
There are other vacancies at PAHO. The CEO position has not been filled since 2020. It was taken out of the budget last year, but is back this year. The private secretary left two weeks ago.
The city says council will select the trustee in accordance with civil service rules.
As for the rest of the authority Section 115 puts in the hands of the CPRB, Hess and the board are waiting for certain things to happen. First, the city’s legal department must draft a new handbook for board members outlining their new responsibilities and procedures, and the federal judge overseeing the consent decree must approve it.
And according to Hess, the new police discipline system of which the CPRB is a part depends on the appointment of the new Community Policing Board. And he thinks it could take a long time to find people who meet all the charter requirements.
“We might be surprised by that. But I think it’s going to take a while,” Hess said. “And I think there’s a practical level that we have to do to keep the ship standing here. We have to move things forward. »
Mayor Justin Bibb is currently reviewing nominations and expects to select commissioners in July. Section 115 allowed some time before CPC assumed its new powers, while the consent decree was updated. There is no such provision for the CPRB.
Henton, of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, disagrees that CPRB members should wait until CPC commissioners are in place and said some should resign from the board if they don’t start asserting their authority.
“These positions need to be filled by people who have a connection to the community and an understanding of the community whose rights they are supposed to oversee,” Henton said.
Currently, there are no black men in the CPRB. The president and vice president are both white men. The previous president was a white man. Three of the eight members are black women.
There is a provision in section 115 that allows community members to sue the council if it does not use its new powers. Henton said the activists had retained a lawyer and could take legal action after giving counsel some more time.