Issue 33 addresses the make-up of Cle's Civilian Police Review Board but not its inefficiency

Posted at 6:42 PM, Nov 07, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-07 18:50:07-05

The future of Cleveland's Civilian Police Review Board is in the hands of voters as they decide the fate of Issue 33.

It's a start," said Dr. Ronnie Dunn, an associate professor of urban studies at Cleveland State University who has studied the city's review board. "I don't know if it goes far enough in achieving the type of reform and integrity that I think the average citizen was hoping for."

The Civilian Police Review Board is charged with ruling on citizen complaints made against Cleveland Police officers. Its administrative arm, the Office of Professional Standards, investigates those complaints.

If passed, Issue 33 changes the make-up of the review board, from seven to nine members. Four of them would be appointed by city council. Currently, all are appointed by the mayor. All police districts would be represented, and no member would be a current or former employee of the Cleveland Police Department.

The proposed charter amendment comes after News 5's repeated investigations into the city's complaint process, dating back two years. The U.S. Justice Department, as part of the consent decree, stepped in to say changes must be made. The proposed changes were passed by members of the Cleveland City Council in August.

"There are structural ways I think they need to look at building more accountability and integrity as well as transparency," added Dunn.

What Issue 33 doesn't address is the lack of efficiency and transparency throughout the complaint process. Out of 470 citizen complaints submitted last year and this year, the review board has only ruled on 79 of them, according to documents posted to the City of Cleveland website. Where to point the blame remains unclear.

"I disagree about the board being ineffective," said Thomas Jones, chairman of the Civilian Police Review Board, in an August interview. "I vehemently disagree with that statement."

Damon Scott, head of the Office of Professional Standards, has repeatedly refused our interview requests.

"Once again, I think the voters are in a position where they're going to have to act on faith that our elected officials and the city will operate in a manner appropriate and necessary."

Matt Zone, chair of city council's safety committee, said in an August interview that changes would also be coming to the Office of Professional Standards. He did not respond to News 5's request for an interview Monday.

A spokeswoman for city council said that there is currently no back-up plan if Issue 33 doesn't pass on Tuesday.