Community Police Commission Adopts Rules for Member Attendance and Removal

Community Police Commission 2016 Annual Report
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When a member of the Cleveland Community Police Commission missed a series of CPC meetings, the group had little recourse but to ask him to voluntarily resign.  The November 2016 letter to Detective Steve Loomis, president of the police patrolmen’s union, says he was absent from many Commission meetings and work groups over several months.  Under the city’s police reform agreement with the US Justice department, a police union representative must serve on the CPC.  Loomis declined to resign. 

“We’ve emphasized that we expect for him to show up and provide timely feedback,” says Matthew Barge, the federal monitor overseeing Cleveland’s Consent Decree.  He says he’s spoken with Loomis and the rest of the Commission about poor attendance which, according to the group’s annual report, is a problem for at least six of its thirteen members.

“Everybody’s gotta show up,” says Barge.  “They need to be the experts who know a little bit more than the average resident about police policy and procedure. And if commissioners are not talking to each other, not showing up to meetings, regardless of who they are, they can’t do that job.” 

So the CPC has been working on new bylaws that define attendance expectations and a procedure for removing Commission members if they miss too many meetings.  The CPC approved the bylaws earlier this month, but they might have some unintended consequences. 

The proposed changes include a definition of “chronic absenteeism.”  That’s anyone who has three absences in a row or who misses one-fourth of CPC meetings in a six-month period. 

The letter to Det. Loomis signed by ten of the 13 commissioners noted his absence from CPC meetings: “ are the only Commissioner who has consistently missed required meetings for many months.” 

But according to the Commission’s annual report, of the 15 full commission meetings between January and November of 2016, three members – Anthony Body, Lee Fisher and Amanda King -- missed 10 meetings. Loomis missed 9, as did Detective Lynn Hampton and Dylan Sellers. 

The commission’s co-chairs declined requests for an interview but in a written statement, Dr. Rhonda Williams said the annual report “doesn’t capture all the other meetings that Det. Loomis missed, including contributing to the work and attending standing committee and work group meetings…” 

In an email, Commission co-chair Mario Clopton-Zymler writes, “moving forward our bylaws are meant to make attendance expectations clear and equally enforceable.”

Had the new “chronic absenteeism” definition applied to 2016 attendance, seven members could have been subject to removal.

Clopton-Zymler writes, "the new bylaws language will only apply to work and attendance after the effective date March 6.”  

But a Cleveland city official says the bylaws have not yet been approved by the city.  Greg White, Cleveland's Consent Decree Implementation Coordinator says the city's law department must still vet the proposed rules.

Among the legal issues that remain is whether the Mayor has the authority – as the new bylaws state – to remove a Commissioner who’s appointed by one of the police unions, as Loomis was.

The federal monitor, Matthew Barge, says there’s no specific timeline for implementing the proposed revisions, and it’s unclear if the federal court must first sign off on them.

“The Commission has been working on them themselves.  They asked for our input. We provided some technical assistance.  They’ve submitted them to the city to see what – since they are an entity of the city – to see what they think about them,” says Barge.  “And I would expect that at some point when they are ultimately finalized this would be something that the judge would have an interest in as well.”

The bylaw revisions will be discussed at the April monthly meeting next week between the Monitor, the city, the Justice Department, and the Community Police Commission. 

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