Thanks to the untimely death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, while in police custody in the summer of 2020, many cities and local governments have begun to rethink how we police our communities. And while some places like New York City and Minneapolis have moved to “defund the police,” cutting off their much-needed resources, others have chosen “reform” instead.
Such is the case in Cleveland, Ohio, where a new amendment to the city charter was just passed. It’s known as Issue 24. And while it just passed in early November, it’s already posing some rather big problems.
To explain those, let’s first wrap our heads around what the amendment actually is.
As the Cleveland-based “The Outlaws Radio Show” explains, at the heart of Issue 24 is just how much oversight the city’s people have over the police.
In most municipalities and even police unions, a specific department is charged with investigating and meting out punishment, for instances where police officers may be in the wrong. In Cleveland, it’s known as the Division of Police.
As Paul Forsgren, who formed Greater Cleveland Citizens for Public Safety in opposition to Issue 24, told the outlet, in addition to the Division of Police, the Director of Public Safety, as well as the Chief of Police are also heavily involved in how discipline within the department is handled. The Director has the final say or “authority and responsibility on discipline.” And the Chief is tasked with imposing any levels of discipline the director sees fit.
The new ruling would amend the current process of all that.
First, it would create a commission of 13 civilians or non-police-related people to hold both police officers and the department as a whole more accountable for their actions. Next, a civilian board with nine members would be created, who would be charged with “misconduct investigations.” Basically, they would be cutting out the Division of Police entirely.
Now, to be clear, added oversight from the community can be a very good thing. Commissions or boards such as this could give the police department and its officers a very beneficial point of view.
The problem comes when these bodies of people who have never served a day in law enforcement of any kind are given the power to decide the fate of the officers in question as well as how the entire Cleveland Police Department handles inside matters.
As Forsgren says, the new changes “effectively put the Civilian Police Review Board and the Community Police Commission, no longer as recommending bodies, but actually gives them complete oversight over the division of police to where they can actually override the Safety Director and the Chief of Police… in any way, shape, or form they believe (is appropriate.”
He continues by saying that in addition to all that new power, these boards can also “initiate its own complaints.” This means that they can become not only the judge, jury, and executioner but also the prosecution.
And that’s something most police officers aren’t too keen on. In fact, as CPPA President Jeff Folmer says, this will only “worsen the ongoing staffing shortages within the division.” He explained that so far in 2021, 156 officers have left the Cleveland Police Department, with 13 of those happening in the last month. Currently, those positions have not been filled.
In addition, the department has some 300 or so officers ready to retire. This means that the department could be down 300 to 400 officers in the coming months, which would effectively “cripple” both the department as a whole as well as patrols.
And the imposition of a new amendment that gives anti-law enforcement civilians power over their jobs will not likely encourage any of them to stick around for much longer. As Forsgren said, “The good ones we have left will quit if Issue 24 passes.”
But that’s not even the worst part.
Along with hamstringing police authority, the amendment also limits what police can and cannot do. Instead of calling the police for domestic matters, for instance, citizens in fear for their lives must now contact a social worker.
No wonder Cleveland police are quitting en masse. Then again, with all the problems this new order is causing and so soon after being imposed, perhaps the people will force it to be recalled. We can only hope.