CLEVELAND — The voters in Cleveland have spoken when it comes to Issue 24, the controversial ballot measure that looks to create a civilian review board for police oversight.
On Tuesday, voters approved the initiative that will establish a Civilian Police Review Board and allow a special commission of citizens, chosen by Mayor-elect Justin Bibb, to be in charge of investigating reports of police misconduct. Before the proposed measure, possible misconduct was dealt with via an internal investigation within the Cleveland Division of Police and the City of Cleveland.
The charter amendment passed on Election Day by a margin of 59%-41%. A description of the measure on the Citizens for a Safer Cleveland website reads as follows:
"Under Issue 24, we propose that the Commission consist of 13 citizens that are broadly representative of the racial, social, economic, and cultural demographics of Cleveland. That includes racial minorities, immigrants and/or refugees, LGBTQ+ individuals, youth, faith, business, and other constituents. The Mayor will appoint all 13 members to the Commission, with approval of the Council by majority vote, for four-year terms following an application process. The Mayor will also be able to remove members for any malfeasance or gross neglect of duty, and other serious misconduct."
In 2015 after a Consent Decree was agreed upon by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Cleveland Division of Police following a 2014 investigation that found Cleveland police officials had violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law while engaging in certain police practices.
Despite the installment of the Consent Decree, advocates of Issue 24 argued throughout the months leading up to the election that the Decree did not go far enough to ensure the safety of residents, as well as the fairness of investigations into police misconduct.
Issue 24 was endorsed by more than 30 Northeast Ohio organizations, including Black Lives Matter Cleveland, NAACP Cleveland, ACLU of Ohio, and the Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus. Mayor-elect Justin Bibb was also a major advocate for the issue, telling 3News' Mark Naymik that, if elected, he wouldn't mind sharing power with the citizens when it comes to policing.
"I said in a town hall a few days ago we can’t keep making a this a false choice between good and effective law enforcement and police accountability," Bibb said. "We can do both. I believe thrust is the biggest thing to do to make sure we have safety and security and residents trust police. Without it, you don’t get safety."
In April, Subodh Chandra, a civil rights attorney most well known for his worth with the family of Tamir Rice, said that the initiative would give more power to residents of Cleveland who are tired of seeing police accountability go by the wayside.
"Our hope and our aspiration with this initiative is that by asserting greater civilian control over our division of police, as should rightly be the case, we will have the values of the community expressed in the accountability system. Because right now, those values aren’t being expressed,” said Chandra.
Opponents of Issue 24, including Bibb's general election opponent Kevin Kelley and current Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, have argued the measure will ruin progress made under the consent decree and cause hundreds of officers to leave the force. Cleveland's police union was also against it, with local Patrolmen's Association President Jeff Follmer lamenting its passage in a statement to 3News.
"It’s so disappointing that the majority of the voters fed into a vengeful group," Det. Follmer said. "This charter passing will be the down fall of Cleveland. Our contract will over ride this charter amendment. Look forward to beating this in court."
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Editor's note: the video in the player above is from a previously published, related story.