CLEVELAND — On International Day against Police Brutality, dozens of people marched and chanted to honor their loved ones that lost their lives to police violence and to rally voters to pass Issue 24, the Safer Cleveland ballot initiative.
If passed, Issue 24 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.
“Issue 24 is the transformative reform that we've been talking about in the city of Cleveland for the past six years,” said Latonya Goldsby with the Cleveland Black Lives Matter organization.
Latonya worked with her team for two years to get this charter amendment on the ballot, hoping for more accountability and discipline in the Cleveland Police Department.
“I think it's so important because we've seen that Cleveland has a history of reverting back to its old practices, once these investigations by the Department of Justice have been closed out or have ended,” said Goldsby.
Jeff Folmer, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen Association, is on the opposing side, and thinks there’s no need for the charter.
“I think we are held accountable. I think we have cameras that hold us. We are the most disciplined in the state of Ohio, by far,” said Folmer.
The City of Cleveland has been under a consent decree for more than five years following the Department of Justice’s Investigation in 2013-2014 that revealed the CPD used excessive force in multiple situations. Cleveland and the DOJ decided that the police department must make a list of changes and reforms.
Goldsby says the goal with Issue 24 is to bring reform so this is the last decree the department will ever be under.
“I think it's so important because we've been here before and if we continue to do the same things we've done in the past, we'll continue to get the same results that we've always gotten. And at this point, there needs to be a change,” said Goldsby.
Folmer said they have the pecking order they need and are highly supervised.
“We have cameras, the Department of Justice is watching us. The safety director and the chief, they are disciplining. We have OPS where we can go to civilian reviews, and we have a civilian review board. We are watched constantly; we are under the microscope,” said Folmer, stating adding to it will only hurt the department and ultimately the city.
“We're short of 150 officers right now. I got 300 officers eligible to retire, if this passes and we get the civilian review group in there by the first quarter of next year, we can be done 400 officers,” said Folmer.
But Goldby believes that won't be the case.
“We don't think that Issue 24 is going to push officers out of the city of Cleveland, if anything, it should attract a better quality of police officers to want to work,” said Goldby.
Ultimately that decision will be made by voters on November 2.
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