© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Akron Citizens' Police Oversight Board looks ahead to next steps in 2024, Walker investigation

Kemp Boyd (second from right) speaks during a civilian police oversight board meeting April 26, 2023.
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Kemp Boyd (second from right) speaks during a civilian police oversight board meeting April 26, 2023.

Though the Akron Citizens' Police Oversight Board has navigated ups and downs in 2023, its members are preparing for major tasks in 2024.

Board members are in the process of filling several positions and ramping up community engagement efforts, Chair Kemp Boyd said.

“We're excited about this upcoming year because I feel like we've, in some ways got our feet up under us a little bit,” Boyd said.

Boyd is also excited about working with the city’s new mayor, Shammas Malik, and new police chief, once hired, he said.

“We’re looking forward to working with all parties to bring about a sense of stability, but also an increase in community policing in 2024,” Boyd said.

Currently, board members are in the process of conducting interviews of candidates for the police auditor role. The auditor will handle reviewing completed misconduct investigations from the Akron Police’s Office of Professional Standards and Accountability and issuing recommendations. They also plan to hire a deputy auditor.

One of the nine-member board’s biggest tasks, Boyd said, is to review the investigation into the fatal police shooting of Jayland Walker,a 25-year-old Black man shot and killed after a car and foot chase in 2022.

In April,a grand jury declined to indict the eight officers who shot Walker 46 times. Then, about six months later, the Akron Police Department’s internal investigation found the officers followed proper policies.

Now, the oversight board will do its own review and see if any policy changes are needed, Boyd said. The process will be led by the board’s police auditor, once hired, and the review subcommittee.

But, we would like to see all of our board members really take a deep dive in reviewing that, and also giving feedback that may or may not be there, to not only just our police department, but also giving it to our new mayor,” Boyd added.

Shawn Peoples, a former Canton police officer who’s now an Akron METRO bus driver, leads the review committee.

The board will also navigate conversations about its rules and authority.

Recently, the board hit a roadblock when Akron City Council did not approve its rules, which would have included the power to investigate misconduct complaintsat the same time as the police department’s internal affairs office.

Some council members took issue with this, saying parallel investigations aren’t best practice.

Though the board now has to modify its rules, Boyd said it’s only a minor setback.

“There's still plenty of work for us to do for not only the citizens of Akron, but also for our police department. So we're really excited about being able to lean into that, but we're not discouraged.”

They aren’t dropping their investigatory power entirely, though, he added.

“We are an oversight board. In order for us to be effective, some of the authorities that we have brought to city council, we believe that we're going to need,” Boyd said. “We believe some of those decisions are going to be made at that collective bargaining table.”

They hope to advocate for investigatory power when the police union re-negotiates its labor contract with the city.

Boyd is encouraged that incoming mayor Malik, who will have a key role in these negotiations, was one of the petitioners and writers of Issue 10, the charter amendment voters approved to create the oversight board in 2022, Boyd added.

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.