Activist community

Mayor Bibb and Number 24 – Give the New Community Policing Commission a Chance: Johnny E. Hamm

CLEVELAND — Last year I was emphatically against Cleveland Number 24. I wrote several opinion pieces for The Plain Dealer and during this time. My concern was that the language of number 24 was ambiguous, open to interpretation, and did not mesh well with the city charter.

In 2018, I had served as a commissioner on the Charter Review Commission and went through every line of the charter. I was impressed with how the charter created clear lines of accountability and identified who had authority over each element within government. It was a masterpiece of clear and cooperative sections, minimizing overlap and confusion. The poorly worded number 24 conflicted with several other sections of the charter and would generate confusion.

Police experts, lawyers and the editorial board of The Plain Dealer warned number 24 would likely result in prosecution. It was assumed that prosecutions would begin when the new Community Policing Commission (CPC) began disciplining officers, and legal questions about labor agreements, state laws and due process would have to be answered.

In a strange twist of fate, the city’s first threatened lawsuit for Charter Section 115 (formerly known as Number 24) was offered by the Promoters of number 24. This lawsuit would be based on interpretations of section 115 of the Charter in the selection of new CPC commissioners, among the problems I identified last year.

It is important to note the difference between the CPC before and after issue 24. Before issue 24, the CPC had two main tasks. First and foremost, give a voice to historically marginalized people in police policy, training and discipline. They had a say in the process, but not the power to impose changes. Second, improve community-police relations. The pre-#24 CPC failed because it focused on agendas and activism rather than relationships. This point of view is demonstrated by their Facebook page. It originally included community meeting schedules, positive policing stories, news about the CPC and settlement agreements, and stories about police reform. Now he rarely posts about community meetings or positive police stories, and public interactions on the page have dropped significantly.

Post-Issue 24 CPC basically has the same two jobs with one huge change. They have the power to force change. The CPC commissioners who give voice to the marginalized are very different from the CPC commissioners who have the power to impose changes in discipline, policies and training. People who made good commissioners before issue 24 do not make good commissioners after issue 24 due to accountability to the city when new CPC forces change.

Mayor Bibb and Council have recognized the need for a new type of CPC Commissioner who still conforms to the wording of Section 115 of the Charter.

This new CPC is the first step in making section 115 of the Charter as effective as possible. If the new CPC wants to succeed where the old one failed, it starts by selecting the best possible commissioners who have the necessary skills, knowledge and experience.

I applied to be part of the new CPC and experienced firsthand the selection process. I was impressed with the steps taken to ensure that the selection process was as transparent and inclusive as possible. It is extremely important to set up and operate an inclusive, impartial, informed and accountable CPC.

With that in mind, I would like to thank Mayor Bibb and Council for their efforts and the time it took to work with the poorly drafted Section 115 of the Charter. Their efforts have given me hope that the new CPC will make Cleveland a national model that improves community and police relations. Let’s give the new CPC commissioners a chance to show us why they were chosen.

Johnny E. Hamm served on the 2018 Cleveland Charter Review Commission, is a Certified Law Enforcement Officer, has a Masters in Administration of Justice, is a Cleveland Police Captain and proud resident of Cleveland.

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