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Akron reopens applications for final citizen police oversight board seat

Protesters march up University Street in downtown Akron Saturday afternoon to demand justice for Jayland Walker, who was shot and killed by Akron Police on June 27.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Protesters march up University Street in Downtown Akron Saturday afternoon to demand justice for Jayland Walker, who was shot and killed by Akron Police on June 27.

Akron officials have reopened applications for the final seat on the city’s new civilian police oversight board after failing to seat all nine members.

Councilmembers approved eight of the nine nomineesearlier this month, but were divided over the ninth candidate: Imokhai Okolo, a 27-year-old Black lawyer.

Some criticized Okolo for a social media post in which he referred to police as “pigs,” while others said his perspective as a young Black man was crucial for the board.

Anyone can apply to serve on the board, but “additional consideration” will be given to African American male candidates between the ages of 18 and 35, according to a Tuesday news release.

“My hope is that once fully seated, the Citizen Oversight Board reflects the diversity and breadth of experience in our community including the perspective of those most impacted by officer-involved incidents,” Council President Margo Sommerville said in the release.

After council removed Okolo's name from its nominees, Sommerville told Ideastream Public Media that she and other council leaders would look back through the 112 applications the city already received to find a young, Black male to consider.

“To be honest, we don’t have the Black male, 18 to 35, that has the resume that Imokhai has. That is the reality,” Sommerville added. “We are looking for someone who checks some of the boxes."

The oversight board will review complaints against Akron Police and issue recommendations for its policies and procedures. One of its first tasks will be to review the results of the investigation into the death of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man shot and killed by police last summer.

Walker was wounded or grazed 46 times in the shooting, according to the Summit County Medical Examiner. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is handling the case.

Individuals interested in serving on the board can apply online or in-person at city hall until noon on March 29.

Anyone who has already applied does not need to re-submit, according to the press release.

A committee of council members has been involved in the appointment process. The committee members are: Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer, chair of council’s public safety committee; Ward 6 Councilman Brad McKitrick, a retired firefighter; At-Large Councilwoman Linda Omobien, chair of the health and human services committee and Ward 3 Councilwoman Margo Sommerville, president of council.

The individuals already confirmed to the oversight board are: Beverly Richards, Tristan Reed, Shawn Peoples, Donzella Anuzskiewicz, Diane Lewis, Caitlin Castle, Robert Gippin and Kemp Boyd.

Updated: March 27, 2023 at 2:23 PM EDT
This story was updated after city officials moved up the deadline for applications to March 29, 2023.
Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.