The New York Times featured The Land Board Member Caitlin Johnson’s reporting in a front-page story investigating the financial incentives driving police traffic stops across three U.S. states.
In two 2020 articles, Johnson reported on how the mayor’s court in Bratenahl had been disproportionately citing Black motorists driving through the small village with nontraffic violations like driving with a suspended license or running a stop light. Those citations added up, and in 2019, the ACLU of Ohio even posted a billboard along I-90 in Bratenahl that read, “Bratenahl Mayor’s Court collected over $500K in 2017.” Johnson started digging into the issue shortly after that billboard appeared.
“When the ACLU called out my hometown, I couldn’t ignore it,” she wrote.
That’s the kind of reporting, the kind that shines light on injustice, with the power to make a difference. That’s why we’re excited The New York Times highlighted Johnson’s work. Amplification from the Times means a lot to a small news operation like The Land, but it means so much more to the communities most impacted by the issues Johnson highlighted.
The power of quality journalism to call out abuses of power is one of the profession’s founding principles. Johnson embodies that. She didn’t originally investigate the mayor’s court for The Land specifically. In fact, no one was paying her to do it. She did it out of concern for her community.
“Instead of using its police force to protect the resources it hoards, the village would be better off if all its neighbors lived in safe, stable communities,” Johnson wrote. “That means sharing a bit, and I’m not sure Bratenahl is ready for that.”
Caitlin Johnson lives in Shaker Heights with her family. She is the communications director at Policy Matters Ohio and sits on the board of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative.