CLEVELAND — Retired Cleveland police officers Richard Jackson and Gregory Pollard both had more than 30-years with the department, but couldn't be further apart in their views on Issue 24, which is on the November ballot.
Issue 24, or the Safer Cleveland Ballot Initiative, if passed would set up a Community Policing Commission made up of 13 civilians who would have final decision-making power on discipline in police misconduct cases.
Jackson, who had 30-years on the Cleveland Police Department as a sergeant, and as a member of the consent decree police commission up until 2019, believes a diverse citizen panel is needed to ensure continued police reform and equitable police accountability.
“Having an outside independent group do investigations, you’re highly likely to get a fair outcome," Jackson said. “Incremental change is not enough, we have to have institutional change. They have to have the power needed to correct the wrong."
“Citizens are the only ones who can give the police department a grade on what they’re doing, the police department can’t grade themselves. And when the consent decree is over, we won’t have a monitoring team to give them a grade, so we have to rely on the citizens to give them a grade."
But Pollard, who had 33-years with the Cleveland Police Fourth District and worked as a police trainer, doesn't believe Issue 24 is the right solution for continued policing reform.
Pollard told News 5 appointing a citizen's panel that has the final say on police discipline lacks the crucial checks and balances from key city leaders who have more experience in leading police policy.
“I tried to read Issue 24, it is very confusing," Pollard said. “I don't agree with completely taking authority away from the mayor, the safety director, and the chief."
“The panel would be able to subpoena people, and if people don’t show up, there’s things that will happen to them. I mean come on now they have authority over the mayor? One commission, they can override what I have elected somebody to do, I don’t like it. They don’t walk in my shoes, get in a zone car."
“Also, mandating council, who we elect, those of us who vote, we elect them and you’re going to take the power away from them. If Issue 24 is approved officers could leave the Cleveland Police Department, it could happen, I have heard officers say this.”
LaTonya Goldsby, President and Co-founder of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, disagrees that Issue 24 would give a citizen's panel too much authority.
“We are not touching the police budget, what we are doing is attaching a percentage of the police budget to this commission, so that they can do the work that they need to do," Goldsby said. “Everything that’s in the charter amendment is lawful, we’re not exceeding the budget of the police, we’re not defunding the police.”
Issue 24 would also give the commission oversight on promotion recommendations for officers, training procedures, and the police investigation process.