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Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association to hold vote of no confidence on Safety Director Karrie Howard

'The only just solution to his blatant bias would be termination'
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Posted at 9:10 PM, Feb 09, 2023

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association will hold a vote of no confidence on Safety Director Karrie Howard during an emergency directors meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, following a statement the director made earlier this week about Irish police that showed "blatant bias," according to a press release from the patrolmen's association.

"The Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association will not accept an apology from Director Karrie Howard. The only just solution to his blatant bias would be termination," the release states.

News 5 was the only TV outlet covering Monday night’s public safety discussion at the Word Church.

Cleveland Safety Director under scrutiny for comments that offended CPD staff

Cleveland Chief of Police Wayne Drummond and Mayor Justin Bibb were invited to talk about the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police, to ensure a repeat situation would not happen in Cleveland.

Howard was in attendance and addressed how Cleveland police can rebuild and attract more young people to the force.

“I can point to history where it works in this country,” said Howard. “Irish at the time were not considered white, the Irish flooded the police departments, the Irish flooded fire departments, the Irish flooded safety forces, to the point that we have bagpipes and kilts and all this green when we celebrate it. When we see a problem, when we talk about rebuilding, we are at a critical time when we can absolutely rebuild."

Days later, Cleveland Fraternal Order of Police President James O’Malley said Howard’s comments were not sitting well with Irish CPD rank-and-file.

“I would say it’s more of a stereotype, kind of like the drunk Irishman, which is obviously offensive to people,” said O’Malley. “That’s the context that I’m getting from it."

O’Malley is also Irish and comes from a long line of Cleveland police officers.

“I’m surprised in this day and age when we’re trying to build bridges through community meetings and having conversations would be to put stereotypes aside, to not talk about kilts and the Irish were always policemen and things like that, to me it becomes a stereotypical statement,” O’Malley said.

Howard also said on Monday night: “There is a certain type of person who has historically applied to be police officers and we’re not part of that certain type of person. It was the Irish that flooded, we need to flood the system."

News 5 reached out to Howard requesting an interview. He said he needed to check with Mayor Justin Bibb before getting back.

A city spokesperson instead sent News 5 the following statement that was written by Howard:

This afternoon, I want to address concerns regarding comments I made on Monday night during a panel discussion at The Word Church. First, I want to apologize to anyone who was hurt or offended by my remarks. I have the utmost respect for all who serve this great city and I appreciate the feedback you have given me.

During the panel discussion, I attempted to use a historical point to illustrate how a group of people created a culture of change by becoming part of the institution they sought to reform. These comments were intended to convey sincere admiration for the Irish Clevelanders who shaped our city by being the change they wanted to see—a point that I failed to fully articulate. Again, I deeply apologize for any pain or offense these comments have caused.

During my career in the military and as a prosecutor, I have had the privilege of working with diverse people from all walks of life. I have served alongside members of nearly every faith, nationality, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I hold a deep respect for every single individual who answers the call to keep our city and our country safe.

As the city’s safety director, my focus is on addressing concerns in the community, finding solutions that create a bridge of trust between the community and police, and improving the safety of the City of Cleveland. The Bibb Administration is committed to police reform, accountability, and the safety of our residents. Together we have taken several steps to address racial bias in the workplace, including mandatory cultural competency training for all public safety employees, all with the goal to foster a biased free workplace. Discrimination of any kind, against anyone, will not be tolerated. 

Good law enforcement, accountability, and a change in culture is needed for effective police reform to be successful. Cleveland’s police reform agenda can be a model for the nation, with multiple layers and mechanisms for police oversight including the Consent Decree, Office of Professional Standards, Inspector-General, Civilian Police Review Board and Community Police Commission. I am excited to work with the new Community Police Commission to create a safer Cleveland for all residents. It is only together, in all our diversity, that we can we bring about the reforms we need and the safer city we want.
Kerrie Howard

On Friday afternoon, the Greater Cleveland Police Emerald Society issued this statement about Howard's comments:

We are aware of the public forum event "Not another Memphis" held at The Word Church. We share the opinion of the spirit of the conversation which condemns police brutality and racism in all forms. During the conversation, the City of Cleveland Director of Public Safety Karrie Howard made confusing and inflammatory comments about the Irish people and our history in the police department. Anti-Irish discrimination is nothing new to us yet saddens us in this modern day. As our ancestors fled the genocide of famine and came to this country, they looked for work to feed their starving families. They were often met with signs in the window "No Irish Need Apply". In search of honest work, they took up the dangerous jobs no one wanted. Sometimes our ancestors perished working those jobs. The statement by Director Howard appears to provide a false narrative that the Irish are racist. We have read the statement Director Howard has issued to WEWS.

More alarming was the confusing commentary about potential biased based hiring practices in the City of Cleveland. With great respect for the office of Mayor Bibb and Chief Drummond, it is our plea that independent investigations on hiring practices should be opened by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the State of Ohio Attorney General's Office.

We stand with The Word Church, Mayor Bibb, Chief Drummond, and the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association in condemning all forms of racism, discrimination, and police brutality. We support the Cleveland divisions of Police and Fire.

Greater Cleveland Police Emerald Society

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