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Three Cleveland mayoral candidates say they will fire police chief, if elected

See where each candidate stands on crime
CPD Police Chief Calvin Williams.jpg
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams changes police policy after News 5 documentary
Cleveland Mayoral Primary
Posted at 5:45 PM, Sep 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-02 10:32:15-04

CLEVELAND — Three of Cleveland's seven mayoral candidates say they will replace current police chief Calvin Williams if they are elected.

In one-on-one interviews with News 5 that touched on a number of topics, including crime, Sandra Williams, Zack Reed and Justin Bibb all said they would fire Williams and hire a new chief to bring sweeping changes to the police department.

Reed took it a step further and said he's already chosen Cleveland Clinic police chief Deon McCaulley to replace Williams, if Reed is elected.

Chief Calvin Williams and Deon McCaulley
Cleveland police chief Calvin Williams (left) and current Cleveland Clinic police chief Deon McCaulley from a promotion ceremony in 2015

Neither Williams nor McCaulley responded to our request for comment for this story.

Here is where all seven mayoral candidates (in alphabetical order) stand on issues of public safety in a city where homicide rates are at a record pace:

Justin Bibb said, "We must do the hard work of rethinking what policing would look-like." In Bibb's vision, he would redeploy the police force so 70% of officers were walking the beat and visible in the community. Bibb would add officers to fill vacancies in the police force but would "do a better job with the existing resources that we currently have. "

He would add a fourth option around 911 so social workers and mental health professionals can respond to non-violent calls. He says the consent decree could be a national model for reform and accountability. He would also support a Cleveland Police oversight commission.

Bibb said he would initiate both a local and national search for the next police chief.

Ross DiBello said hiring more police officers has not been proven to reduce crime. "That's what we've been doing decade after decade," he said, "crime is up, and that's the story of our country and our city." He said he would improve response times by reallocating some officers and making sure mental health professionals or code enforcers are responding to non-violent situations.

DiBello calls crime a "socio-economic creation" and says the key to solving the problem is to "narrow the wealth divide."

DiBello said all department heads, including the police chief, would start with a "blank slate" with him.

Basheer Jones said he would fill all open police positions and "without a doubt" hire more officers. He supports community policing and says investing in parks and recreation centers is key because it gives young people something to do.

Jones says police officers need to be "culturally competent" and he will hold officers accountable but also highlight officers who are doing good work.

He is the only candidate who said he is a gun owner. He said he has a concealed weapons permit.

"Having guns is not the problem." said Jones. "But the problem is you have to have more gun safety training, and we have to remove the stigma of guns."

Jones said his transition team would determine "what's best for us" when it comes to the retention of chief Williams.

Kevin Kelley called the proliferation of guns "shocking" and says the state legislature has stripped the City of Cleveland from having "any kind of reasonable gun laws, and that's a shame."

Kelley would fill all of the open positions within the police department, ensuring full-staffing in homicide, sex crimes and domestic violence specialty units. He said a pilot co-responder program has shown some benefit but "the number of calls that are appropriate and safe for social workers or mental health professionals to respond to have been extremely limited."

His vision for community policing is installing a "neighborhood safety center" in every ward and an increase in officers on bike and foot patrols.

Kelley called for the simplification of the police department's 17-page chase policy so it is crystal clear to officers when a pursuit is necessary.

Kelley wouldn't "make any personnel decisions right now" when asked if he would retain chief Williams.

Dennis Kucinich says he would hire 400 more police officers, bolster homicide and other specialty units and hire 100 new safety assistants to deal specifically deal with mental health situations.

He said he would create a civic peace department to stop crime at its root cause. He wants to allow police to pursue violent felons and fly the police helicopter, which has been grounded.

Kucinich said the consent decree is working but as mayor he would take control back of the police department.

Kucinich said chief Williams was "not the problem" but would "review candidates for chief of police" if elected.

Zack Reed said violent crime has been "out of control for a long time" and we should treat it like a "public health crisis."

He said the key to improving the crime rate is rebuilding trust in the community. He wants to bring in an organization called Cure Violence, which sends formerly incarcerated people to build trust in high crime areas.

Reed said he would replace chief Williams, "because the statistics continue to show that the concepts and methods that he is using to make his city safer are not working."

Sandra Williams also said she thinks it's time for a new police chief.

She plans to implement the PIVOT program that targets small areas where crime is chronic and sustained. She said PIVOT was a highly effective program in Cincinnati at reducing violent crime.

Williams would increase the number of mental health co-responders and hire more police officers to make sure the department is fully staffed.

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