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Q & A: Issue 24 passed overwhelmingly, now what?

The first step, or at least the only one with a deadline in Issue 24, will be to file a motion in U.S. District Court to modify the consent decree. [Matthew Richmond / Ideastream Public Media]
Federal courthouse in Downtown Cleveland

Now that Clevelanders have passed Issue 24 by a wide margin, the question becomes how and when the transformed system of police oversight will be in place.

All Things Considered Host Tony Ganzer spoke with Ideastream Public Media criminal justice reporter Matt Richmond about the initial steps city officials will have to take.

What do we know about what happens next?

The only deadline in the amendment is that 30 days after the vote is certified, the law director has to file a motion in federal court to have the consent decree modified to reflect what’s in Issue 24.

And then the federal judge, Judge Solomon Oliver, has to approve of that motion.

And what is that going to look like, do we even know?

No, you can guess that they will at least put in the motion there has to be a 13-member community police commission. And it was originally created in the consent decree, this community police commission, to act as a forum for public input and make recommendations to the police department. So that will be taken out, or that will have to be added to. And these other responsibilities will have to be included.

But then it’ll be up to the city how much they want to include in that motion. Obviously they’ll have to put all the headline stuff in, that ultimate civilian oversight over discipline, policies, training are with the CPC. But then there’s details, like that the department will have to allow for the public sharing of officer records or that there will be penalties for city employees that don’t cooperate with the commission.

Is there any sense of how Issue 24 will affect Cleveland’s ability to fulfill the requirements of the consent decree, because you have to fulfill the requirements for the city to be released from the agreement with the Justice Department?

The filing of this motion to change the Community Police Commission coincides with a transition in the consent decree. The monitor is moving from evaluating the policies and procedures the city has put in place to assessing how those policies are actually being followed on a day-to-day basis by officers and administration.

So, for instance, right now they’re looking at the way the use of force policies are being followed by officers and reviewing the reports that they file. So will the monitor want to see that the Community Police Commission, this new community police commission, is effectively investigating misconduct, has good procedures for reviewing policy or will they just want to see that it’s been set up and that it’s functioning? And then leave the rest up to the city, which is possible because, since this is in the charter, the city will have to keep this in place, unless a new ballot initiative removes it. Unlike the other things in the consent decree, this is guaranteed to continue to exist after the monitor is done.

You talked about leaving things up to the city. The city has a new mayor, so how much of the process is going to be in the hands of Justin Bibb?

A lot of it. I mean the first thing we talked about, the deadline for filing the motion, that deadline falls before Jan. 1, before Justin Bibb takes over, but it’s possible that everybody involved will see it as in everybody’s interest to push that back until Justin Bibb takes over.

It seems like anything to do with police reform creates challenges, many of which were not foreseen beforehand. What challenges do you see implementing this process?

There are many I think. First of all, the patrolman’s union said before the vote that they would be filing a lawsuit and it’s possible they file it before the commission’s formed.

Then there are a lot of questions about how it will function. It has oversight over police policy, but does that mean every policy that the chief of police tries to put in place will have to go to the CPC? Or will they pick and choose the ones of interest? Same thing with discipline decisions.

And you can be sure there will be some nominations that get some pushback at least from part of city council, so that is likely to be a contentious area.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.