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Akron Mayor Dan Horrigan, police union and Jayland Walker's family react to passage of Issue 10

 Jayland Walker's mother, Pamela Walker (center), speaks to demonstrators following a march through downtown Akron on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. She's held by Jayland Walker's sister, Jada Walker.
Ryan Loew
Ideastream Public Media
Jayland Walker's mother, Pamela Walker (center), speaks to demonstrators following a march through downtown Akron on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022. She's held by Jayland Walker's sister, Jada Walker.

Akron voters approved Issue 10, a charter amendment creating a civilian police oversight board, by a 2 to 1 margin last night.

Unofficial results from the Summit County Board of Elections show Akron voters approved the issue by 62% to 38%.

But this overwhelming support has not always been echoed by some of the city’s top leaders, including Mayor Dan Horrigan.

Horrigan wanted to take a year to figure out logistics of the oversight board before codifying it in the city’s charter, he said.

Wednesday morning, Horrigan released a statement acknowledging voters wanted a different path.

“Akron’s voters have made their voices heard and it’s clear they want a more permanent citizen police oversight board than what was recently established by Akron City Council,” Horrigan said. “I respect the will of the voters and support the creation of the Citizens’ Police Oversight Board.”

City council had previously passed his ordinance for an oversight board, which included a goal of putting a charter amendment before voters in November 2023. The Issue 10 charter amendment supersedes the ordinance.

Issue 10 will create a nine-member review board made up of citizens that would monitor complaints against Akron Police.

Although many community members have called for an oversight board in Akron for years, efforts to implement one were reignited this summer after Akron Police fatally shot Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black man, after a car and foot chase. Walker was unarmed at the time of the shooting.

Activist groups collected thousands of signatures on a petition to get the review board on the ballot.

Attorneys for Walker’s family, Bobby DiCello and Kenneth Abbarno, released a statement Wednesday.

“Jayland’s family is proud to belong to the Akron community, a place where Americans used the democratic process to enact meaningful reform in honor of Jayland’s life and others who have lost their lives to police violence,” DiCello and Abbarno said in the release. “Today is a day for optimism, though there is much work ahead. This is not the end of our effort to hold the city accountable for Jayland’s death. It’s just the beginning. And still, today Jayland’s family celebrates the fact that meaningful change came to Akron.”

The city’s law department will now determine the path forward for implementing the new review board, Horrigan added in the city’s release.

Nearly 60 people had already applied to be on the oversight board passed by council, and those applications will be kept on file, he said.

“Issue 10 dictates that Akron City Council must pass any required legislation by June 30, 2023 in order to create and implement the Board, and we aim to meet that deadline,” Horrigan said in the statement. “We may have chosen different paths to get here, but as long as we're unified in moving forward, I believe the formation of this Board can and will make Akron stronger.”

City council must enact legislation that outlines logistics of the oversight boardthat are not already prescribed in Issue 10. The board must have nine members who are all Akron residents. City council is responsible for appointing six members, while the mayor will pick three.

Horrigan and other opponents of Issue 10 had also expressed concern that the board will conflict with the city’s contract with the police union.

Clay Cozart, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #7 in Akron, said in a statement Wednesday that union attorneys will be available as these logistics are ironed out.

“Union leadership and our union attorneys will be available to discuss and advise those charged with creating this additional layer of police oversight who may not be familiar with the collective bargaining agreement,” Cozart said in the statement.

Ray Greene Jr. is the president of Freedom BLOC, one of the groups that led the charge for Issue 10. He hopes Freedom BLOC and other groups will be included in conversations about the review board’s logistics.

“We’ve got to get together, put some committees together, help city council build out the legislation to make sure it’s comprehensive, make sure it’s fair, and make sure it’s doing what it’s intended to do, which is building community and police relations,” he said.

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