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Pastor Jimmy Gates Resigns from Police Reform Selection Panel, After Criticism of his Criminal Past

By Joanna Richards

Pastor Jimmy Gates, of Zion Hill Missionary Baptist Church, has resigned his position on the Selection Panel for the city of Cleveland's Community Police Commission, after public criticism about his criminal record.

Mayor Frank Jackson's office released Gates' resignation letter late Friday. In it, Gates says he doesn't want to distract from a defining moment for the city.  

The mayor's appointment of the selection panel is an early requirement of the city's police reform agreement with the Justice Department.

The mayor had said he knew of Gates' felony convictions - for bribery when Gates worked at the city water department, and for a later mortgage fraud scheme - when Jackson appointed him to the panel earlier this week. But the mayor defended Gates' record of community involvement since then, saying he was a changed man after committing the crimes a decade ago.

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach released a statement: "Reverend Gates has made mistakes but he is a man working to turn around his life and the lives of others. His decision today deserves respect and removes yet one more imagined obstacle for those who seek to distract us from the pressing need for reform."

The full text of Gates' letter to the mayor is below:

To: Honorable Mayor Frank G. Jackson                                                             July 10, 2015

Good Afternoon Mayor Jackson,
First of all, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to serve on the panel that will select 10 of the most qualified individuals of the Greater Cleveland community to serve on the Police Commission. I am thoroughly convinced under your strong leadership, our city is headed in the right direction, and through this Police Commission, policies and procedures will be in place to govern this process for centuries to come. The Cleveland Division of Police must mirror the slogan of “Protect and Serve”

After prayer and meditation, and consultation with “trusted and seasoned” colleagues, I have come to the conclusion I must resign from the selection panel. My desire is for the focus to be on the process, and not on me as a distraction to the process. I have often said in the 2 ½ years that I have been involved in various community and other meetings that got us to this point, that this is a “defining” moment for the City of Cleveland. An opportunity to reshape our city, where the police and the community have a mutual respect for one another, versus an “us against them” mentality. I love my city too much to allow Jimmy L. Gates to be a distraction in accomplishing that goal. In closing, I do want to clarify the alleged comment of “not being ashamed of my past” Yes I am ashamed of my past, but I am extremely proud of the accomplishments God has allowed me to achieve. For my past cannot and will not define who I am.

Once again, I thank you for the opportunity to serve, and I really appreciate your confidence that I could objectively serve and do the job required of my selection. I promise to continue to stay engaged within the community on the various projects that I am involved, and work that Cleveland will become again, “The Greatest Location in the Nation”

Cc. Steve Dettlebach