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Clevelanders Discuss Concerns Over New Community Police Commission

Selection panelist Phyllis Harris with community member

by David C. Barnett

About fifty local residents packed a meeting room in the Hispanic Alliance offices on Cleveland's westside, Monday night, to hear how they could be part of reforming police policies and practices.  But, they face a fast-approaching deadline.   Candidates for the Cleveland Community Police Commission have to have their applications in by Thursday.  

This was the second of two meetings aimed at encouraging Clevelanders to apply for membership on the community police commission.  It was hosted by a panel that will appoint ten members of the Commission, once all the applications are in.  Three more  commission members will be appointed by local police unions, and that provoked complaints from several people about an unbalanced selection process.  Latino attendees expressed further concern that police discrimination against Hispanics needed to be understood by the commission members.  And local activist Meryl Johnson questioned the very basis of last night's meeting.

"I kind of get tired," she said,  "of hearing promises that, 'We're going to listen to the community; we want the community to be involved.'   It almost sounds like they're really trying to appease us, like, 'Well, didn't we let you talk?'"

Afterwards, panel member Gabriella Celeste said she wasn't discouraged by the negative comments.

"I heard a lot of people sharing their life experience and their concerns,"  she said.   "I thought we had the opportunity to hear more guidance and input from the community, for us to consider, and I'm really grateful for that."

Cleveland State social work professor Joshua Kirven has submitted his name to be on the commission.  He says he heard a lot of doubt and cynicism, last night, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.

"I think it's healthy," he said.   "And I think that --- whoever's on the commission --- they're going to have a big job, because the community's going to hold them accountable. "

By court order, that commission has to be appointed by early September.

david.barnett@ideastream.org | 216-916-6242