Collinwood rally defends Cleveland safety director after police union calls for firing
Black on Black Crime, Inc., an anti-violence citizen’s group in Cleveland, hosted a small rally Wednesday night to show support for Cleveland Public Safety Director Karrie Howard in response to the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association’s (CPPA) call for his firing.
“CPPA, don’t be a hypocrite,” Black on Black Crime Inc. founder Art McCoy said.
Earlier this month, Howard made comments regarding Irish American police officers at a forum at Word Church in Cleveland’s Central neighborhood that some considered racially biased.
Howard suggested that Black people should pursue law enforcement careers in large numbers, similar to what he said Irish Americans did decades ago in Cleveland.
“The Irish flooded the police departments. The Irish flooded fire departments. The Irish flooded safety forces. To the point that we have bagpipes and kilts and all this green when celebrate it,” Howard said.
Because the city's police force is understaffed and struggling to recruit, Howard suggested there is an opportunity to change its racial makeup.
Based on department demographics provided by the city in 2021, Cleveland’s police force is about two-thirds white and more than 80% male, in a city that is more than 60% racial minority.
“Racism is in the DNA of America. So, there is a certain type of person who has historically applied to be police officers and we’re not part of that certain type of person,” Howard said.
Howard, after backlash from police officers, apologized for the comments in a statement from Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb’s office.
“I have served alongside members of nearly every faith, nationality, ethnicity and sexual orientation,” Howard said. “I hold a deep respect for every single individual who answers the call to keep our city and our country safe.”
A week after the forum, the CPPA released results of an overwhelming no-confident vote of Howard, 868 to 38.
“The things that he said can’t be tolerated,” CPPA President Jeff Fullmer said. “For the city of Cleveland, it’s the best thing to do for him to be fired and for us to move on and get somebody respectful.”
McCoy said the police union historically supports police officers when they make derogatory comments and is treating Howard more harshly because he is Black.
“They wanted to get this man fired, this honorable man fired, for a few words when they never have tried to reprimand or fire one of their members for the derogatory things they said about Blacks,” McCoy said.
McCoy talked about former CPPA President Steve Loomis, and noted instances in the past when the CPPA did not act as harshly as he said they are toward Howard.
Loomis ridiculed the firing of police officers involved in the killing of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, two unarmed black people who were shot at 137 times by police in 2012.
Loomis was suspended in 2021 when civilians complained that his now-deleted Facebook posts, which criticized NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, were offensive. Loomis was not CPPA president at the time.
“I love my Irish brothers and sisters. And many of them are on the police force. It’s a beautiful thing. Not about that. It’s about the CPPA wanting to pick and choose. In this case they were hypocritical,” McCoy said.
The song “Amazing Grace” in bagpipe-style played at the beginning of Wednesday’s rally. Black on Black Crime, Inc. ambassador Alfred Porter said it was a nod to Howard’s comments, but also a way to show appreciation to Irish Americans in the police force.
“When he talked about joining in, that’s what our people need to do,” Porter said.
Bibb said he recognizes the concerns of the police union, but also has confidence in Howard and will keep him in his role.
“I hold the professionals who bravely serve our city in the highest regard, and this is a situation that we take very seriously,” Bibb said in a statement. “My hope is that this is a situation that we can learn from and that we will continue to have hard conversations that help us build bridges and heal divides.”
Howard was not at the rally Wednesday.