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Akron activists aren't satisfied with civilian police review board approved by city council

JudiHill_NAACP_review_board_press_conference
Anna Huntsman
/
Ideastream Public Media
Judi Hill, president of the Akron chapter of the NAACP, provides details on a proposed civilian review board at a press conference at First Congregational Church in Akron on Sept. 6, 2022. Hill and Ray Greene Jr., seated left, are not satisfied with the review board recently approved by city council.

Akron will have an 11-member civilian police review board, now that city council approved an ordinance proposed by Mayor Dan Horrigan.

Activists who have been calling for police reform in the aftermath of the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker, however, are not satisfied with this plan.

Akron NAACP President Judi Hill and Ray Greene Jr., executive director of the community organizing group Freedom BLOC, are encouraging people to vote in November for a charter amendment that would create a different review board instead.

If passed, that plan would supersede the mayor’s ordinance.

One of their main concerns is that the mayor’s ordinance can be changed by future legislation, while their plan would be codified in the city’s charter, Greene said.

“What the mayor did yesterday is not permanent, and what we’re doing is permanent and forever, and I think that’s what [we’ve] got to keep our eye on,” Greene said.

Future mayors and council members might not support the review board, and could decide to do away with it, Hill added.

“They could change it tomorrow. They could change it next week,” she said. “Once it becomes a charter amendment, it is in … and we have to make the changes. And that’s what we’re working toward. We’re working toward permanency.”

The mayor’s ordinance includes a goal of codifying the review board in a charter amendment in November 2023. In his remarks before city council’s vote, Vice President Jeff Fusco said this gives city leaders time to figure out logistics.

“This is a way that we can move forward and adjust as we go, and make sure this gets completed the right way,” Fusco said.

City leaders and residents have called for a civilian review board for several years, but efforts were renewed earlier this summer after Akron Police fatally shot Walker, an unarmed Black man

Hill does not think the year-long delay is necessary, because she and other leaders have been working on a review board in Akron for years, she said.

“I don’t want to talk about promises anymore. I’ve been made promises, and I now am moving toward solution building, and I see this as a solution for our community,” Hill said.

Another one of Hill’s and Greene’s concerns is that the mayor’s ordinance still gives the mayor significant influence over the board, because he would select 6 of the 11 members.

The charter amendment would create a 9-member review board with only three picks from the mayor.

The charter amendment is more citizen-oriented, Hill said, because more than 7,000 signed a petition in support of it.

“What the mayor is doing is the mayor’s voice. It’s not the voice of the people, and that’s the difference,” Hill said.

Mayor Horrigan says he respects and supports the people who gathered signatures for the charter amendment, but he has concerns about the proposal.

He and several members of his staff that worked on the proposal brought forth concerns that the charter amendment could conflict with the city’s contract with the police union.

Hill pointed out that provisions in the charter amendment state that they are “subject to the restrictions of federal and state law,” and if any provisions are found to conflict with the collective bargaining agreement, they would not be permitted.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron and Canton for Ideastream Public Media.