CLEVELAND — Black Lives Matter Cleveland believes not nearly enough police use-of-force reform has taken place in the year since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin during a May 25, 2020 arrest.
BLM Cleveland President Latonya Goldsby told News 5 some small progress has been made during the year when it comes to raising awareness over the need for greater police accountability but said there has not been nearly enough legislation on the local, state, and federal level to address real change in police use-of-force issues.
“We’re now seeing an uptick of response from folks across the country," Goldsby said.
“But I’m looking for our politicians and our elected officials to actually implement legislation and some changes that will actually create some accountability.”
Goldsby said Black Lives Matter Cleveland is now in the midst of collecting signatures in an effort to place the police accountability issue on the November ballot. Goldsby said the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland Initiative is calling for the creation of a civilian panel that would examine police use of force cases, increasing police accountability locally.
“We can no longer allow the police to police themselves," Goldsby said.
“This would be an independent body, these folks are not connected to the city, that they’re not obligated to side with the city."
“There’s been small steps but not enough steps that will actually change the culture of policing in Cleveland the way we see it.”
Kareem Henton, Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, told News 5 said some progress is being made legislatively in other states but so far not in Ohio.
A report by the National Conference of State Legislatures indicates 23 states have passed significant legislation in improving police accountability and reducing office exemption for liability while on the job.
“There are different states, different elected officials who are now looking at canceling out qualified immunity," Henton said
“Now that folks have gotten the ball rolling, we have to keep it rolling. Unless legislation at the state level happens, I don’t expect to see a lot of change with regard to policing.”
“It’s just disappointing, that’s all I can say. I don’t have any huge expectations.”
Efforts by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to pass legislation that would increase police accountability, establish a use-of-force database, mandate officer body cameras, and ban choke-holds, with only small exceptions, stalled in the legislature in 2020 and has made little progress this year.
Still, DeWine said he is still confident the legislation could become law this year.
“Well I think we will get it passed this year, a lot of work has been done on this bill by members of the legislature, a lot of work has been done on this bill by our administration," DeWine said.
“Really, I think it will put Ohio at the forefront of reform in this area. These are things that I think can be supported by police. They are being supported by civil rights groups.”
Prof. Ronnie Dunn, Cleveland State Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Professor of Urban Studies, told News 5 while some policing improvements have been made in the past year, real change is needed legislatively and in how officers interact with Cleveland's African American youth.
“There’s a greater awareness and willingness to engage on these issues," Dunn said.
“Over the last year, more than 404 new police agencies have initiated the compliance process. We need to now focus on having these standards codified and become law.”
“We must have the registry the Governor had proposed, establishing a statewide database on use of force, as well as officer misconduct.”
“What is also crucial is prohibiting racial profiling and then requiring the collection and analysis of demographic data, both racial and social demographic data, on all police-initiated interactions with the public."
In January 2021, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams admitted more police reform is needed but said the federal consent decree his department has been under since 2015 is producing some results.
“Our uses of force are down, our uses of deadly force are down, our complaints are down,” Williams said. "And our injuries to both officers and citizens are down.”