CLEVELAND — Cleveland's director of public safety Karrie Howard sat down for his first interview with the local press since he was appointed in June 2020 by former Mayor Frank Jackson.
Howard stepped into his role amid a nationwide racial reckoning and faced increased calls for police reform and accountability.
“We have officers who are human and who make mistakes. Suspensions work. Demotions work. But we also have officers who get acquitted,” said Howard. “I don't want accountability and discipline to overshadow the number of good men and women who work on the division of police.”
According to data shared with News 5 by Howard, since March 2020, 26 officers have been terminated, two have been demoted and 54 have been suspended.
In June, the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association called for Howard's removal saying the director was too heavy-handed regarding discipline.
“The union is defending the people who pay their dues, who they represent, and that's them doing their job,” said Howard. “What it does represent though is a culture shift in policing, it represents a culture shift of accountability.”
That "culture shift" comes as Howard said the department is down 224 officers.
Howard said that a recruitment team is out on the ground attending community events to attract new cadets.
“Since we're coming on the other side of COVID, and it's really a new normal, our recruitment team is getting back out into the public,” said Howard. “We've done some different things within recruiting in public safety to allow our recruitment team to keep a full calendar of being out face to face interacting with the public.”
Teen gun violence has become a major problem in Cleveland, including three incidents in the last week.
Howard said that he is working on a partnership with local community groups working to save our youth.
“The recreation centers are going to open some of the pools soon. We're looking at implementing some basketball programs in the community, whether it's midnight basketball or going through the rec centers. We must give our young people something to do,” he said.
Howard said his main goal is to close the wedge between the community and police and attract more diverse candidates in not only police but firefighters, EMTs, and animal control workers.
Creating that relationship means the department must be transparent with the public about the good and the bad.
News 5’s investigative team has reported extensively on the difficulty of getting information from and interviews with Cleveland police.
“That's why we're here, right? We want to talk about some of the good things that we're doing, and we want to talk about the negative things that come up,” said Howard. “If we want to show and develop faith in policing to the public, we've got to show them how that's being done. You can't do anything behind the curtain.”
Download the News 5 Cleveland app now for more stories from us, plus alerts on major news, the latest weather forecast, traffic information and much more. Download now on your Apple device here, and your Android device here.