Clevelanders divided over police oversight issue on November ballot

Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 10:30 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - As the November election draws closer, there is more and more talk about Issue 24 and what it would mean for public safety in Cleveland.

On Tuesday, the issue was discussed at a regularly scheduled meeting between the police and community members at the Mount Carmel school gym on Cleveland’s West Side.

“One of the concerns is really safety and is about recruiting police officers. Retaining police officers,” said Commander Thomas Stacho, second district commander.

Stacho said he believes the initiative would hurt the city of Cleveland.

“If you take a look in the cities of Seattle and the cities of Portland, they’ve had similar charter amendments. Take a look at what’s going on in those cities,” Stacho said. “Take a look at the impact on public safety in those cities. If you look at the homicide rate in Portland it’s gone through the roof.”

Issue 24 is a community police commission and police oversight initiative sponsored by Citizens for a Safer Cleveland.

A “yes” vote supports amending the current city charter to make changes related to police oversight and discipline.

It would also create a community police commission giving the mayor instead of the police chief more authority over the police department.

“The mayor, who is elected, will have the power to appoint the members with several members being at the suggestion of city council, and there will have to be representatives from community civil rights organizations and an attorney with experience litigating police misconduct,” explained Rachael Collyer, a lead organizer for Citizens for Safer Cleveland. “This isn’t going to just be anybody off the street.”

Paul Forsgren, president of Greater Cleveland Citizens for Public Safety, says the consent decree already holds police accountable, and he thinks this amendment goes too far.

“The problem is that with the way Issue 24 is set up the CPC and the review board are basically set up to where they cannot have people on them who have ever been police officers in Cleveland or otherwise,” said Forsgren. “We believe that it’s very important that people who are in charge of discipline either have done or have a good understanding of what it’s like to be a police officer.”

Collyer said the whole point is that police cannot be trusted to police the police.

“People deserve not to have to be afraid of the people who are supposed to protect them,” said Collyer. “By having common sense accountability, by repairing the trust, by making sure that everyone’s loved ones can come home safe... we can really begin to see real accountability, real change, and better policing here in Cleveland.”

Collyer also said the mayor can also appoint three police association representatives to the board.

Issue 24 will be on the ballot on November 2nd.

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