Pity Issue 33.
On a ballot that includes the most contentious presidential election in a generation, a major Cleveland tax issue and an all-important school levy renewal, the bid to reform the city’s police review board has been overlooked like Rob Kardashian at a family picnic.
The police review board obviously needs foundational work. But the issue put on the ballot by City Council is more like slathering on a fresh coat of paint and calling it a renovation.
“We would have chosen a more comprehensive, robust approach,” says Rhonda Y. Williams, co-chair of the Cleveland Community Police Commission.
Consider: The board that resolves civilian complaints against police was established in 1984 — the same year Night Court debuted on NBC — and Issue 33 marks the first time anyone’s really tried to fix what a racially divided vote created.
In its proposal, the commission suggested requiring more minority representation and raised questions about whether someone outside the mayor’s administration should decide if an officer should be disciplined after a complaint.
But City Council’s version offers only the barest minimum — term limits, a ban on current or former Cleveland police officers serving on the all-civilian board and two extra members. It complies with the consent decree between the city and the Justice Department — and not much more.
The court-mandated police monitoring team found that as of May, the board’s Office of Professional Standards still had 202 incomplete cases from 2014. And a 14-page draft of the board’s operating manual — which, it should be noted, didn’t even exist previously — was found by the team to be “deficient in every regard.”
“Changing the number of board members, changing the representation can make a difference,” says Williams. “But if the structure, content, protocols and procedures are not changed, you’re adding more people to do the same thing that’s already in place.”
Pity Issue 33.
9:00 AM EST
November 7, 2016