CLEVELAND — Mayor Frank Jackson said Thursday he has no plans to defund Cleveland's Police Department and believes the city has made progress toward police reform under the five year old consent decree with the US Department of Justice.
"We're not going to defund the police," Jackson said during a teleconference with reporters. "Because when you get robbed, you're going to want the police. If you get assaulted, you're going to want the police. If your house is broken into, you're going to want the police."
Nationwide there have been calls to shift police funding to social programs following the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.
But Jackson said he believes Cleveland has already implemented many of the police reforms that are now part of a nationwide discussion.
"Cleveland has made significant strides and has been recognized on the strides we've made and people are basically looking at Cleveland and saying how did you do this and how did you do that," said Jackson.
But Cleveland City Councilman Basheer Jones doesn't agree.
"If any political person is saying that there has been progress, well let me take you into some of these neighborhoods where the people are more afraid of the police than they are of who they call criminals," said Jones, who represents Cleveland's Ward 7. "We're afraid of the policeman."
Jones, who sits on the council's safety committee, believes it's time for meaningful change toward reforming the police department.
"I'm tired of the political tennis matches," he said. "I want to see change and if defunding the police is the only way we bring change then that's what we need to do."
Jackson said the department has improved training, implemented a body camera program for officers, and has worked to improve racial diversity in its ranks. But, the mayor admits, there's still more to do, especially in the area of what he calls institutionalized racism.
"We're not claiming even in the city of Cleveland, even though we have done more than others, we fully recognize what needs to be done because it is institutionalized stuff."
When pressed for specifics he's discussed with the police department, Jackson again referred to the consent decree which was put in place in efforts to improve policing in the city.
"I'm comfortable that we're making progress," said Jackson.
But Jones believes more has to be done.
"Our community has lost all hope in the type of policing we've been doing," said Jones. "Unfortunately, when people don't respect lives, they respect dollars."