Stand Up For Ohio, in partnership with Black Lives Matter Cleveland, NAACP Cleveland, Showing Up For Racial Justice-NEO and the ACLU of Ohio, launched a powerful new ballot campaign to ensure fair and independent investigations into police misconduct in Cleveland on Tuesday, April 20.
The newly-formed Citizens for a Safer Cleveland coalition aims to put police accountability on the ballot this November and give a diverse board of community representatives the final say on police discipline. The group is working to collect more than 6,000 signatures, beginning this week, to put the issue on the ballot, according to reporting from Cleveland.com.
“In Cleveland, there have been over 91 families who have been impacted by state-sanctioned police violence and not one of those officers have been charged,” said LaTonya Goldsby, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, in a press release. “That means over 91 times, a police officer has been allowed to get away with police misconduct and oftentimes murder. We must implement a permanent structure of police accountability and oversight.”
The hope and aspiration with this initiative is that by asserting greater civilian control over the division of police, the values of the community will be expressed in the accountability system, said Subodh Chandra, Cleveland civil rights attorney, in a press release.
“This measure increases transparency, accountability, fairness and public safety as we define it,” said Jocelyn Rosnick, policy director at the ACLU Of Ohio, in a press release. “It’s not just about good policies but ensuring good practice and accountability. It’s about having a seat at the table and safeguarding civilian oversight. The ACLU of Ohio is proud to endorse this charter amendment and stands with Citizens for a Safer Cleveland.”
During the press conference, Goldsby said it’s important that this newly formed Civilian Oversight Committee is independent of the city to further ensure police accountability.
“It’s imperative that at times like this that we have a system of structure in place to hold officers accountable when they use excessive, deadly force when they could’ve used a deescalation tactic,” Goldsby said. “So it’s very important that we establish this Civilian Oversight Committee because we find too often these officers get a pat on the hand because often these committee folks are obligated to side with the city because they are employed by the city.”
In explaining the inner workings and language of the initiative, Chandra said the bottomline is, “officers need to understand that if you engage in racist conduct as a police officer, this charter of this city assumes the proper remedy is you are fired. Period.”
Chondra said the commission will work with an annual budget of one million dollars and “broadly representative” members of the community, some appointed by the mayor and some appointed by the city council, will receive an annual compensation of at least $7,200.
In addition, the commission will receive an annual budget for grant making equal to at least 0.5% of the budget allocated to the division of police.
“So this commission of accountability will have a budget that’s tied to the division of police budget and that will be enough to help ensure accountability,” Chondra said. “Or so we hope.”
Alicia Kirkman, mother of Angelo Miller who was fatally shot by police in 2007, spoke at the press conference and called for all families in the city of Cleveland to connect with Citizens for a Safer Cleveland.
“My case is no different than anyone else’s,” she said. “That’s why it’s so important that everyone come out. We’re waiting for you and we’re here to support you. I know it’s hard. It hurt to relieve that pain. It opens up a wound. But we are definitely here. The Citizens for a Safer Cleveland are here to help. To help heal that wound. To help heal that pain.”
Maria McGinnis is a senior journalism student at Kent State University and an editorial intern for The Land.