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Akron civilian police oversight board, Issue 10, has passed. What happens next?

Ray Greene Jr., executive director of The Freedom BLOC, speaks to demonstrators outside the Harold K. Stubbs Justice Center in downtown Akron on Wednesday.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Ray Greene Jr., executive director of The Freedom BLOC, speaks to demonstrators outside the Harold K. Stubbs Justice Center in downtown Akron on Wednesday.

In the days after Akron Police fatally shot Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, in June, outraged community members protested in the streets and called for police reform. A top demand was a civilian police oversight board.

On Election Night, that demand was realized. With all precincts reporting, unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections show Akron voters approved a charter amendment creating the review board by 62% to 38%.

Community members and some city leaders have called for a review board to help increase citizens’ input in the Akron Police Department’s policies and procedures.

Activists collected thousands of signatures on a petition to put a nine-member review board before voters on the November ballot.

The Freedom BLOC, a community group that advocated for Issue 10, released a statement on the passage of the charter amendment.

"With this historic win for community safety, Akron is standing up for police accountability, and this is only the beginning. You will continue to see us on the doors in every ward to find great candidates for the civilian oversight board," the statement read. "We will seek individuals to build a team of strong, diverse community leaders who will work with the administration to ensure we write the best legislation to ensure safety in our community."

Akron Ward 8 Councilman Shammas Malik, who worked on the amendment and has been one of its most vocal supporters, said many people have wanted a review board in Akron for a long time, but previous efforts did not get off the ground. That changed on Tuesday.

"The citizens are behind us, and we're going to find ways to work with our police department to strengthen trust," Malik said.

The charter amendment will supersede a previous plan for a civilian oversight board that was proposed by Mayor Dan Horrigan and approved by city council in September.

The city will soon begin taking applications from individuals who are interested in serving on the board.

The board will be made up of nine members. City council will appoint six individuals and the mayor will pick three.

The language of Issue 10 does not impose any requirements for serving on the board, aside from being an Akron resident. However, there are several recommendations for those who serve, including include someone with a police background, legal experience, experience working with underserved communities, someone who works in mental health services, someone between the ages of 18 and 35 and someone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ community.

Now that the charter amendment passed, city council must enact legislation that formally implements the nine-member review board before June. This ordinance will officially create the board and describe its role and powers, said Bill Rich, professor emeritus of law at the University of Akron.

Details in that ordinance could be changed by future legislation, rather than amending the charter, he said.

“I think it leaves the details to council, by way of implementing legislation. I don’t think it goes overboard in specifying the details that might prove to be unworkable and need to be changed,” Rich said.

Although the review board passed, Malik said the work doesn't stop there.

"There are a number of other steps, but this is one step that's going to be a huge step forward and the citizens - the citizens did it," he said.

Ohio State Sen. Vernon Sykes, who also worked on the charter amendment, shared that same sentiment.

“We will continue to struggle to try to improve the relationships with the police and the community," Sykes said. "It’s an ongoing process so that we can get better – the police, at serving and protecting us, and us interacting with them and helping them as they help us.”

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