Police oversight charter amendment to go before voters

Cleveland City Council

A major change to the Cleveland Charter will go before voters this November, including adding a new Community Police Commission whose members will have final authority over much of the police department operations, after Cleveland City Council passed legislation to submit the amendment to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections. 

The amendment was established through an initiative petition. Various groups, primarily two from outside Cleveland, spent more than $122,000 to pay circulators for the petition signatures. Among the major changes:

  • -Moving the city’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS) under the Civlilian Police Review Board (CPRB) so that OPS reports to CPRB, not to the Safety Director. Currently, the OPS  is an independent agency composed of civilian employees. Its responsibility is receiving and investigating non-criminal complaints filed by the public against sworn and non-sworn employees of the Cleveland Division of Police.
  • -Supplies the board with a budget of at least 1% of the budget allocated to the police force – this means approximately $2.18 million based on this past year’s budget (the current budget is less than $173,000).
  • -CPRB members, complainants, and any City taxpayer may sue the City to enforce Charter sections related to the CPRB.
  • -Termination is presumed if the officer’s or employee’s language is on a matter of public concern, where that officer or employee’s interest in commenting on matters of public concern does not outweigh the City’s interests in promoting efficiency of public services.
  • -Would authorize the CPRB to engage outside lawyers without legislative or executive branch authority and can overrule any disciplinary decision by the Chief of Police.
  • -Establishes a permanent Community Police Commission which, among other powers, has the final authority on disciplining police officers and police employees, and has final authority over police policies, procedures, and training regimens.
  • -The commission will have a budget of no less than $1 million annually and can enter into contracts or spend without legislative authority or approval from the executive branch. Currently, the council approves any city expenditures over $50,000 (the Commission currently has a budget of less than $600,000).
  • -The Commission will also have subpoena power.

The new amendments to the charter supersede all other charter sections that may conflict. Read the full charter amendment. (Ord. No. 650-2021)

Supporters ultimately gathered the necessary signatures in two rounds. A D.C.-based organization named The Fairness Project reported to contributing a total of $63,169.13 to local, suburban, and out-of-town circulators to gather the signatures. A Youngstown-based group called the Ohio Organizing Campaign reported to contributing a total of $48,960.02 to the circulators to gather the signatures.

Smaller amounts were paid to circulators by other groups. The attached statements list who provided the money to gather the signatures and those who received the money: (Original Statement of Circulators and Second Amended Statement of Circulators for the two rounds of gathering signatures). Circulators came from as far away as California, Colorado and Kentucky.

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