Cleveland City Council Members Agree on Protester Demands
#CLEDemands campaign meets with City Council members to discuss demands. Council members agree to sponsor resolutions.
CLEVELAND, OHIO - Following the demonstrations by activists inside Cleveland City Hall on Monday December 1st and Monday December 8th, four members of City Council agreed to meet and negotiate with the #CLEDemands campaign at the bookstore Guide to Kulchur in Gordon Square. The group consisted of 13 people total, including 4 members of Cleveland City Council. The following is an overview of the negotiations and conversations had by the #CLEDemands campaign and the 4 Council members.
On December 11, 2014, at 1:30pm, the #CLEDemands campaign members met with City Council members Brian Cummins, Jeffrey Johnson, Zack Reed, and Matt Zone. A team of negotiators from the campaign presented the seven total demands [located at:http://cledemandsjustice.org]
The first issue on the docket was the full implementation of body cameras to document and curb excessive force used by police byJanuary 25th. After discussion, it remains unclear as to whether Council members will be able to push for this emergency measure. Councilman Reed stated that the death of Tamir Rice pushed the body camera schedule to meet this early date, but when a campaign member pointed out that the measure can be implemented in an emergency ordinance, Councilman Johnson stepped in to say that, “Cleveland is on board with body cameras and we’ll have them eventually.”
The second demand was for an independent, democratically elected citizen review board to replace the ineffective internal review process used by police. Activists pointed to recent findings that only 8% of 441 complaints about police officers were reviewed under the current system. All Council members expressed support for this idea with several caveats. Councilman Cummins raised several issues surrounding implementation. He pointed to Seattle and Cincinnati as two cities experimenting with a more democratically appointed board. Councilman Johnson expressed his doubt that pushing an ordinance regarding the citizen review board would be passed. He recommended a model be designed by constituents and NOT Council. He stated he believed Council would not get the necessary 11 votes to pass, but with a completed plan of action and 18,000 signatures, the people could petition the cause to be placed on the ballot. Zack Reed added to this by reiterating the power residents actually hold in elections, citing the recent recall of the traffic cameras in November, but also expressed that an ordinance was possible. Councilman Johnson committed to introducing well written ordinance on the matter written by the campaign.
Many activists have expressed concern that the DOJ report neglected to discuss how race played into the pattern of excessive force. They pointed to this lack of understanding for why safety commission chair, Matt Zone, wouldn’t support fundamental reform in policing. Councilman Zone responded by admitting, “I will never know what it is like to walk down the street being black or brown. I can only offer compassion.”
In response to Councilman Zone’s comment, NAA member Dylan Sellers responded, “We thank your father for his work. But what we’re doing is giving you the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. What your father did was not perceived as popular, so you remaining neutral is not something that is appropriate at this juncture. What we need is you to fulfill your role as the Safety Committee Chair and step up and be a leader, even if it is viewed by your colleagues and the police division as unpopular.”
Before adjourning the meeting, Councilman Johnson stated that he would be the sponsor of all resolutions and would only seek to modify the details of one of them. Said modifications will present themselves in further conversation with Councilman Johnson within the coming weeks, but before January 2015.
In post meeting dialogue, Councilman Cummins stated that, “The tragic deaths of Tanisha Anderson and Tamir Rice should cause great concern. These talks are critical if we expect to re-build trust within our community and be successful in truly changing the way policing is done in Cleveland.
We reached out to Councilmen Johnson and Zone for final official statements, post meeting, but were unable to reach them after hours.
The four resolutions presented by #CLEDemands:
1) The immediate indictment of officers Timothy Loehmann and Frank Garmbeck and the officers who murdered Tanisha Anderson
2) All Cleveland police enter a complete retraining, including 40 hours of mental illness training per year and diversity training
3) The immediate freeze on the hiring campaign in CDP
4) Any officer involved in the killing of a civilian be immediately and thoroughly investigated, and if warranted, prosecuted by a lawyer in no way affiliated by the Cleveland Division of Police.
Council members endorsed the following resolutions:
Councilman Johnson: yay on all four resolutions. Councilman Johnson stated he was “willing to be the sponsor [of such resolutions]
Councilman Zone: No comment on resolution number one. He stated support of resolution 2 while also stating that “it does not go far enough.” He supports resolution number 3 and pledged to continue in engaged conversation regarding resolution 4 as well as all issues presented by the campaign.
Councilman Cummins: Full support of resolution one and a speedy investigation. He stated a moderate amount of support on resolution 2, no support for resolution 3, and support for issue 4. Councilman Cummins released a statement earlier in the day asking Mayor Jackson to call for the resignations of Safety Director Michael McGrath, Police Chief Calvin Williams, and executive assistant to the Mayor Martin Flask.
Councilman Reed unfortunately had to leave early due to the necessity of attending another community meeting in his ward. However, before his departure, he was able to pledge generalized support and action on his part for the all of the resolutions presented by the #CLEDemands campaign negotiation team.
Official transcripts of this meeting will be made available to the public over the course of the next week. Community leaders and activists are waiting to see how these pledges will translate into concrete action by members of Council.