Issue 24: The Community Police Commission Looks Forward

By Yugan Sakthi

This is the fourth part of an ongoing series of monthly articles about the implementation of Issue 24 and how you can become involved in the fight for our public safety. Read the last issue on theclevelandobserver.com or in last month’s issue of the paper.

On Thursday, May 19, the Cleveland Community Police Commission (CPC), formed in 2015 by the federal Consent Decree, held its final quarterly public meeting. The next time the CPC meets will be in its new form with new responsibilities and new members.

The new Community Police Commission was established as a permanent city commission by the new section 115 of the City Charter. The deadline to apply to become a commissioner passed just this past month.

Section 115, the codified charter amendment that was known before the election as Issue 24, stipulates a diverse set of conditions for CPC members. Commissioners will be “broadly representative” of the “overall demographics of Cleveland residents,” including by race, gender, sexuality, age, faith, business, and other communities. 

Included in the commission must be at least one member who has been directly or indirectly impacted by police misconduct, at least two members who represent civil rights organizations, and members who meet other criteria.

The current CPC, composed entirely of dedicated volunteers, set important groundwork upon which the new Commission can build. In Thursday’s quarterly meeting, commissioners received special recognition for their service and hard work, with resolutions presented to them by Ward 1 councilman Joe Jones.

Current commissioners are hopeful that, with expanded powers and responsibilities, the new Commission can bring meaningful change to policing practices.

In the meeting’s closing remarks, CPC co-chair Lewis Katz delivered some of the final words. “As volunteers without any power, the City found it very easy to say no to us . . . [but] for a group of volunteers, we really got a lot done.”

He later went on to add, “the City has made a tremendous decision with a commission that has power . . . Cleveland can serve as an example to the rest of the country at this point, and let’s hope we get it right.”

Commissioner Harriet Hadley remarked that she is excited for the changes to come. She thanked all the families for standing up and fighting to get Issue 24 passed.

By the time the application deadline passed last month for the new Commission, nearly 300 applications had been submitted. 

Even if you were not able to apply or missed the deadline, there will be many opportunities to participate in this new era of Cleveland police reform. In the meeting, commissioners mentioned that with more funding for public outreach, the new CPC will have even more ways for the community to engage in police accountability.

In the coming weeks, Mayor Justin Bibb and his administration will review the applications and make selections. Many of the applicants include current officers in the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) for whom the amended Charter allocates up to three seats.

Together, the new commissioners will be tasked with constructing a new model of police accountability. Many are hopeful; others, including many police officers, have expressed their concerns. 

As the Issue 24 reforms move forward, it is vital that community members engage with the process in any way they can. Commissioners at the meeting expressed the power that community members have—it does not need to be a matter that is left just to time, or City Hall.

If you have any questions or would like to request specific information to appear in next month’s Issue 24 update, please do not hesitate to reach out to The Cleveland Observer at info@theclevelandobserver or on the website under “Spot It! Post It!” at the top of the page.