Akron City Council passes Mayor Dan Horrigan's proposed civilian police review board

 Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan addresses city council on an ordinance creating a civilian police review board on Sept. 26, 2022. Council passed the legislation 9 to 4.
Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan addresses city council on an ordinance creating a civilian police review board on Sept. 26, 2022. Council passed the legislation 9 to 4. [Anna Huntsman / Ideastream Public Media]

Akron will now have a civilian police review board.

City Council passed Mayor Dan Horrigan’s proposal for a citizens oversight board Monday night by a vote of 9 to 4.

The 11-member board will review complaints against Akron Police and provide input on the department’s training, policies and procedures.

Horrigan attended the meeting and spoke ahead of the vote.

“No ordinance is ever perfect, but I think this represents a very good path forward for the city, both time-wise, and to be able to get the committee and panel up and running fairly quickly,” Horrigan said.

City leaders and residents have called for a civilian review board for several years, but efforts were renewed earlier this summer after Akron Police fatally shot Jayland Walker, an unarmed Black man.

The ordinance also creates the Office of the Inspector General, (OIG) which would include an inspector general, assistant inspector general and an administrative specialist. The OIG would be hired with the mayor’s consent and report directly to the board.

The oversight board would be made up of at least one representative from each of the city’s 10 wards, according to the proposal. Some members must have expertise in law enforcement, racial and social justice and mental health services.

The mayor will pick six of the members with the council’s consent, and council will decide on the remaining five.

Community members gathered thousands of signatures to put a charter amendment creating a civilian review board on the November ballot. The same day those petitions were turned in, Horrigan came out with his own proposal – a slightly different structure.

Four council members voted no: Ward 2 Councilman Phil Lombardo, Ward 4 Councilman Russ Neal, Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Mosley and At-Large Councilwoman Linda Omobien.

Mosley, along with Neal and Omobien, expressed frustration that the ordinance could take away from the charter amendment that will be on the ballot in November and cause confusion among residents. The charter amendment would create a different structure for a review board.

“I do hope that we will find a meeting place on this, because I think we all do want the same thing, but I don’t think confusing residents is the way to do it,” Mosley said.

Horrigan said his intent was not to discredit the work citizens did in gathering thousands of signatures.

Lombardo, on the other hand, opposed the ordinance and said there is already enough oversight of police misconduct investigations.

“From the BCI investigation, the APD internal investigation, the attorney general’s office … and so forth, to add another level of oversight makes me wonder why we do not trust the professionals,” Lombardo said.

Council Vice President Jeff Fusco spoke in favor of the mayor’s ordinance over the charter amendment. The ordinance gives the board time to figure out logistics with the intent of passing a charter amendment codifying the structure in November 2023.

“This is a way that we can move forward and adjust as we go, and make sure this gets completed the right way,” Fusco said.

Fusco is also concerned the charter amendment will conflict with the city’s contract with the police union and be held up in court, he said.

The application process will open to the public on Tuesday and applications will be accepted through Oct. 31.

However, Ward 8 Councilman Shammas Malik does not want to take applications until voters decide on a charter amendment that would create a different review board in November.

“I worry that it could create a process in which there are two application processes, and confusion to folks,” Malik said in a committee meeting Monday. “I would urge that we hold off on that part of the process until after that vote is conducted in early November.”

The charter amendment would create a 9-member review board and strengthen the city’s police auditor position. Akron City Council would pick six members and the remaining three would be selected with the mayor’s consent.

Malik helped craft the charter amendment and prefers that proposal but he still voted for the mayor’s ordinance.

Aside from the number of board members, the key difference between the ordinance and charter amendment is the permanence. The ordinance could be changed by future legislation, whereas the version being voted on in November would be codified in the city’s charter.

If the charter amendment passes, the ordinance would have to be adapted to the charter amendment.

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