Voters Speak: Issue 10 Wins: Special from The Reporter
(Akron, OH) – Danielle Taylor summed up the joy when she thanked NAACP/Freedom Bloc activists and supporters for …”letting me acetate my vote in the midterm election.”
The people of Akron voted to enshrine in the City of Akron Charter a citizen developed and driven charter amendment intended to strengthen relations between police and the community.
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Akron. We believe in democracy and will continue to push for representation for all,” said Akron NAACP president Judi Hill
The 8 Point Bistro was filled with jubilate victory party volunteers who saw history made by expressing their concerns and educating their friend to make a difference by voting for a city charter amendment creating a Civilian Review Board,
According to unofficial results, over 61% of Akron voters approved the citizen proposed Civilian Review Board.
During August, the Akron NAACP, Freedom BLOC, and many young volunteers- ages 20 to 30- garnered 12,000 signatures to put the issue on the Nov 8th ballot- a feat some seasoned politicians thought would never happen.
The coalition spent thousands of hours knocking on 20,000 doors explaining why their vote was important for justice. The election results show that grassroots people can be motivated to vote if you give them a reason and explain how their vote can make a difference.
This coalition of activists are determined to encourage grassroot people that their involvement can bring positive change for Akron. Akron Issue 10 organizers and supporters respond to the citizens of Akron passing the charter amendment on improving police-community relations through the creation of a citizen’s review board.
On the ballot as Issue 10, the charter amendment titled “Improving Police-Community Relations and Establishing a Citizens’ Police Oversight Board,” represents a massive collaborative community-led initiative. Leaders worked with the Committee to Improve Police-Community Relations to draft the charter amendment, relying on a variety of recommendations and reports, including Akron City Council’s Reimagining Public Safety initiative and the City of Akron Racial Equity and Social Justice Task Force.
The charter amendment is the culmination of years of discussions within the community about police accountability. Akron’s police auditor role was created in 2007. Since then, it has had many challenges: part-time staffing, a lack of access to information, and a lack of independence from the rest of city government. In recent years, there has been renewed focus on improving the police oversight role – both from within city government and across the community. The tragic circumstances surrounding the killing of Jayland Walker on June 27, 2022 underscored the need to move from discussion to action, and to bring a proposal before voters for their consideration on the November 2022 ballot.
Petitioners for the proposed charter amendment included: Shammas Malik, Council Member, Ward 8, Akron City Council; Akron Councilperson at large Linda Omobien; Rev. Dr. Joyce A. Penfield- Akron Interfaith Social Justice Group; Rev. Nanette P. Pitt- Senior Minister, First Congregational Church of Akron; and Rev. Dr. Roderick C. Pounds, Sr.- Pastorof Second Baptist Church.
The charter amendment codifies Akron’s commitment to policing practices that include de-escalation techniques, race and implicit bias training, non-lethal force options, community policing skills, mediation and conflict management, Crisis Intervention Training (CIT), and mental health crisis intervention techniques. It establishes a Citizens’ Police Oversight Board consisting of nine members who will be representative of the diverse communities within the
City of Akron. The amendment seeks to ensure the representation of a variety of perspectives, including that of law enforcement.
The charter amendment also provides adequate staffing and funding for an Office of the Independent Police Auditor (OIPA). The OIPA and the Board will provide external and independent oversight and review of policing practices. The Independent Police Auditor will be appointed and removed by the Board, without direct involvement from city council or the mayor.
The proposal does not provide the Board or the OIPA with any power to control police practices or discipline, but nonetheless represents transformational change. It allows for citizen oversight of Akron Police Department investigations into misconduct and citizen recommendations around Akron Police Department policies and procedures – like vehicle chase or traffic stop practices.
“We are so honored ,” said Rev. Raymond Greene, Jr., executive director of The Freedom BLOC, “ and grateful to be a part of something so big in Akron, Ohio. With this historic win for community safety, Akron is standing up for police accountability, and this is only the beginning.
Rev. Greene had nothing but praise for the voters in Ward 3, Ward 4, and Ward 8 because their turnout was great . Ward voter turnout set a new midterm election record. . “People are demanding change ( after the Jayland Walker murder)> “The results show that (Issue 10) was not about political party, but about real change,” Green said.
“Thank you,” said Greene to volunteers and FreedomBLOC staff members. “Akron has said that we want change and we are ready and willing to fight for it by any means necessary. We are just getting started, and we are grateful for your trust in moving Akron forward together.”
Comments poured into Your Reporter Newspaper upon the passage of Issue !0. Councilman Shammas Malik- Ward 8 says, “The citizens of Akron have taken an important step to create a permanent space where residents and public safety officials can work together to rebuild trust and create a safe city we all want to live in.
Issue 10 is an important step, and something we can build from. Akron needs a comprehensive approach to public safety, including real community policing that can further build relationships and trust, investment in youth violence prevention strategies, and collaborative and supportive response programs.”
Rev. Nanette Pitt, Senior minister of First Congregational Church of Akron, says: “This is an amazing victory for peace and justice in our city. It is an expression of the people’s desire to improve relations between the police and the community, but also to ensure civilian oversight of our police department. The broad-based partnership that was developed in support of this measure is a testament to what becomes possible when well-meaning citizens come together to forge positive change. Together we can. Together we will. Together Akron will be that city on a hill where justice and peace can thrive.”
“The people needed to know,” said Veronica Sims, president of the Black Elected Officials of Summit County and coalition member, “that there is a pathway forward to building stronger healthy police and community relations and to begin the arduous, yet necessary, work to heal our city. Congratulations to the Citizens of Akron!”
Rev. Dr. Roderick C. Pounds, Sr., says: “Issue 10 will allow local voices who have heretofore been silenced to henceforth be heard.
Rev. Dr Pounds- Senior Pastor of Second Baptist Church- calls the passage of issue 10 reflects that Akron’s citizens have chosen the latter.”
Leader of Akron Interfaith Social Justice Group and Akron NAACP, Reverend Dr. Joyce A. Penfield, says “Listening to and bringing the voice of the community to the forefront inspired me to work harder for ISSUE 10.”
Akron city councilperson at large Linda Omobien says, “Thank you to all the citizens of Akron for voting for Issue 10. As a member of the City Council I am committed to making this work for all of us including the Akron Police Department.”
Ohio State Senator Vernon Sykes says, “The people of the City of Akron are the principal decision makers, they have spoken. Improving police-community relations as presented in the charter amendment will be a high priority for Akron’ city government.” Well-wishers attending Issue 10 Victory party included Akron NAACP President Judi Hill, Andre Washibton- A. Phillip Randolph Ohio President, Rev Joyce Penfield and husband, N.J. Ackar, Lillie Jackson-Black Social workers, and Johnnie Hannah.
Issue 10 Victory Party Photo Captions:
Young Freedom BLOC volunteers and staff celebrate passing Issue 10 creating a Police Civilian Review Board. Shown in front is Shamika Pullum, Acacia Coleman, Chyna Lopp, Desha Johnson, Alana Belle, and Danielle Taylor. Middle row is Terrelle Harris-Malone, Christian Williams, Andrew Myers, Ali Coker, and Charlie Stewart. Standing in back is Jason Humphrey, Ken Brooks, Rev. Bruce Butcher, and Damarcus Tucker .Reporter photo/Bill Ellis, Jr
Some of the tired Freedom BLOC coordinators celebrating a victory were Damareo Cooper, Rev Ray Greene, and Rev. Nanette P