Cleveland City Council names finalists for Community Policing Commission

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Cleveland City Council on Thursday announced its top picks to serve on the Community Policing Commission, the 13-member citizens’ panel reviewed by voters last fall that will have the final say on police discipline.

The Council’s dozen finalists include a mix of people from a wide range of professional and demographic backgrounds, including social service workers, teachers, law enforcement and those directly affected by violence or violence. police misconduct.

Under the amendment to the police reform charter – known as question 24, or section 115 of the charter – the council is required to appoint three members to the commission. The mayor appoints the other 10, but they are also subject to council approval.

A board committee will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to interview the board’s finalists, to identify the three people it will eventually appoint to the commission.

Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration, in a series of interviews earlier this summer, reviewed its own list of 34 top candidates, including at least five the council also chose as finalists. Bibb expects to announce his final picks next month, according to a city spokeswoman. Whoever the mayor selects will also be interviewed before a council committee.

Once seven members are officially appointed, the Community Policing Board can begin its new field of work, which includes imposing disciplinary measures for police misconduct and influencing key policy decisions, such as training police and recruitment practices, among other extensive oversight powers.

Because seven members have yet to be named, the commission is made up of different members and still operates under the old procedures, which grant it far less oversight power than the new iteration.

The charter amendment requires that members of the new Community Policing Board be “broadly representative of the racial, social, economic and cultural interests of the community, including those of racial minorities, immigrants/refugees, LGBTQ+, youth, faith, business, and other communities, to reflect the overall demographics of Cleveland residents.

Members should also include representatives of specific groups, such as civil rights organizations, people directly affected by police violence (or whose family member has been killed by the police), and people affected by the armed violence. No more than three members may represent police associations.

All study applicants are Cleveland residents. Members of the board’s safety committee collectively determined the board’s slate of finalists by reviewing 169 nominations from eligible Clevelanders.

The finalists include eight blacks, two whites, two Hispanics and one Asian. Eight contestants are male, three are female, and one identifies as transgender/non-binary. Two are veterans and one is a disabled person, whose first language was American Sign Language. A few are former Cleveland police officers. One said he was wrongfully arrested while in college; another said he was shot dead by Toledo police on May 30, 2020.

Here’s a look at the nominees’ professional and personal backgrounds, and some of what they wrote in the nominations about their own views on the Cleveland police and the commission’s role:

John Adams: Chair of the Department of Social Studies at the Cleveland School of Science and Medicine, Ph.D. in African American history, with a specialty in civil rights and gender, including research on law enforcement and the black community.

“We have to protect [law enforcement] because they protect us, but we also have to be careful that there are not different rules for different people. My goal is to foster better relations between the police and the different communities because there is a disconnect and a divide that urgently needs to be repaired.

Shandra Benito: Licensed Social Worker, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Nord Center, a leading behavioral health provider in Lorain County, with past experience in homeless shelters and sexual assault and violence advocacy domestic.

“The current state of policing is traumatic for both the community and police officers, and I want to be part of the solution to integrating trauma-informed care into public safety.”

Virginia Beckham: Executive Director of Lorain County Safe Harbor/Genesis House, whose career has centered on homeless and domestic violence shelters and worked closely with LatinX communities.

“A significant shortcoming of so many law enforcement agencies in our country is that a cloak of secrecy has become so great and so opaque that transparency has all but disappeared. The Community Police Commission can create an atmosphere that promotes transparency and integrity.

Jerry Billups: intervention and diversion specialist with Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court, whose previous jobs included outreach and gang prevention in the Slavic Village.

“[K]now that there are real checks and balances here, officers will be less likely to intentionally harm someone. I believe citizens will further develop a sense that a fair body will consider conduct in a fair and timely manner. »

Alexander Cook: A professor at the Cleveland Institute of Music, a member of the institute’s Title IX task force, with a background in math and psychology, who said “much of my current academic work revolves around issues of racism and sexism and of its intersections with culture, society and history”.

“It troubles me deeply to see the continuing problems between Cleveland police and citizens, often with deadly results, and as someone who believes in objectivity, empathy, awareness of how complex issues influence relationships, and as someone who has seen the continued deterioration of the aforementioned relationships, I think it’s clear that the current model is ineffective and that the need for independent oversight is stronger than ever.

Audrianna Rodriguez: Works for the Center for Children and Families as a family advocate for three Cleveland public schools and trained as a “community psychologist.”

“I see CPC as a partnership between CPD and residents to rethink safety and ensure compliance with the consent decree.”

Bree Easterling: Veterans Services Officer and Outreach Coordinator for the Cuyahoga County Veterans Services Commission, and previous experience in social services, as a social justice organizer, and as an outreach advocate community.

“[I have] lived experience and frustrations with the criminal justice system regarding subjection to corrupt police departments while working as a local subway delivery driver in Cleveland. The fear and anxiety felt during these encounters has no place in our society. The corrupt police are a gateway to the heinous, unjust and inhumane conditions that the prison industrial complex creates and perpetuates…”

Gary Williams: Former prosecutor and deputy director of law in Cleveland and Shaker Heights, who taught police the limits of the use of force and tried cases involving allegations of excessive use of force against police. Former board member of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and retired assistant dean of Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.

“[During my career] I was able to see both the strengths and weaknesses of our current law enforcement system. The problems of the current system must be addressed and resolved if we are to end unnecessary police violence.

Gregory Wheeler: Former social worker for the Cuyahoga County Division of Child and Family Services, who teaches social-emotional learning to Cleveland Public School students and coaches football. Worked as an institutional guard for the Cleveland police in the 1990s.

The commission must “hold law enforcement to account where warranted” and “instill public confidence that all investigations will be fair and impartial.” If the council functions as intended, trust can be restored for both the public and the CPD. »

Luke Davis: Retired Cleveland police officer who served as an undercover officer, security for a former mayor and congressman, and various city, state, and federal agencies, including forensic security for the U.S. Marshals Service.

“Police unions are doing a lot to protect the rights of police officers, but it has become clear that very little has been done to protect the rights of citizens. We must come together to offer all our fellow citizens the respect, compassion and protection that taxpayers deserve.

Matthew Ahn: Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Cleveland State University, public defender specializing in sentencing and post-conviction. He said his “all of his experience practicing law has been focused on recovering exhibits after police actions.” Academic emphasis includes a civil rights provision typically used against police in cases of misconduct and violence; teaches a course on the history of the police and how the police reacted to reform.

“Police oversight does not automatically lead to police accountability. Despite enacting reforms across the country, the rate of police killings has remained steady at around 1,100 per year for more than a decade, even at the height of the 2020 pandemic lockdowns…[My] expertise and experience will help the Commission to make informed decisions based on the data and information available on the systems we are trying to improve.

William Tell Sr.: Cleveland Utilities Division Security Officer and retired Cleveland Police Commander who served 32 years with the department.

As a black police officer, I have experienced and seen racial disparities within [CPD] which are representative of systemic issues affecting not only the police, but also the citizens of the city. I envision that this commission will eventually change the image of the department by reinforcing improved standards of conduct for officers, improving the quality of police recruits, the training program and leadership.

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