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No police reform approved before Akron City Council's summer recess

Akron City Council virtual meeting
Akron City Council
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YouTube
Akron City Council met virtually on Monday, July 25. This was the final meeting before its August recess.

Akron City Council did not pass any police reform measures before its month-long summer recess.

Four weeks since the death of Jayland Walker, who was fatally shot by Akron police, council met for the last time Monday night until Sept. 12.

Council will eventually consider legislation to equip police vehicles with dash cameras, but it was not ready in time for Monday's meeting, said Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Mosley.

“The legislation is being worked on," she said. "We now have a price as to how much the dash cameras are going to cost.”

Mosley told Ideastream Public Media the dashcams would cost close to $2 million. Council previously unanimously approved a resolution from Mosley that urged the city to purchase dashcams.

Council is also considering a civilian review board that would monitor complaints against police. But council faces a deadline of Sept. 9 if it wants to put the proposal before voters in November.

Ward 8 Councilman Shammas Malik wants to hold a special meeting in August to try to meet that deadline.

“We have to find a way to give folks something to rally around, and a civilian review board with some strength that could proactively build bridges between police and the community, that can do that,” Malik said.

During the meeting’s public comment period, residents voiced concerns that council is not acting quickly on police reform and is instead discussing dash cameras, which community organizers have not specifically called for.

Several groups have submitted a list of demands for the city that include ending police chases and releasing the names of the eight officers involved in Walker's shooting.

“It seems that the requests of people who have been in these meetings the last few weeks [have] been somewhat confused by the city council," Akron resident Natalia Wyrd said during Monday's meeting. "The things that we have been asking for have been twisted into further funding and further support for the police, when that is the exact opposite of what we’ve been asking for.”

While Mosley said she supports ending police chases, she disagreed with the criticism of the dash camera legislation.

“It’s okay to be passionate about what you’re passionate about, but I think sometimes we do the community a disservice when we change the narrative to make it fit what we want it to say,” Mosley said. “This is not about rewarding officers. If we want to talk about keeping the community safe, this is one of those measures.”

Mayor Dan Horrigan and Police Chief Steve Mylett have said repeatedly that the names will not be released until the state’s investigation of the shooting is completed.

Monday’s council meeting was once again held virtually after the municipal building allegedly received threats following Walker’s death and subsequent protests.

Ward 4 Councilman Russ Neal asked Council President Margo Sommerville for more information about the threats. Sommerville said she was looking into them and would not discuss any updates publicly yet.

Ward 2 boundary will shrink

Also on Monday, council approved new ward boundaries for the next municipal primary.

The new map is based on the 2020 U.S. Census, which showed Akron’s overall population declined 4%, according to officials. The city’s 10 wards will each have about 19,000 residents, said Council Vice President Jeff Fusco.

“For the most part, our city has remained the same, and the neighborhoods have remained intact,” Fusco said.

Proposed Akron 2023 ward maps.jpg
TRIAD Research Group
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City of Akron
The proposed map for Akron City Council's ward is similar to the map in place for the past decade -- but has some changes around the North Hill neighborhood.

But one area has seen so much growth that they had to shrink the boundary, Fusco added. Ward 2, which includes the North Hill neighborhood, experienced a population increase due to a large number of immigrants and refugees settling there in recent years, he said.

In an earlier committee meeting, Ward 2 Councilman Philip Lombardo said he understood why shrinking the ward was necessary.

“Yeah, I wish that more of the neighborhood could be together, but you know, it is what it is. I’m willing to move forward with it and put this one behind us,” Lombardo said.

The ordinance passed 11 to 1. At-large Councilwoman Linda Omobien was the only member to vote against the ordinance. Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer was not present for the meeting.

The map will take effect for the municipal primary in May 2023.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.