AKRON, Ohio – The city plans to create a citizens review board to hear residents’ complaints about police officers, a move made in the wake of Jayland Walker’s death.
The panel will serve as an independent voice to the Mayor Daniel Horrigan, City Council and the police chief. It also will review policy issues and safety trends, Horrigan said Monday.
“The idea of a citizen review board is one that we have been discussing in our community for several years,” the mayor said in a statement. “These types of boards exist across the nation and provide communities with more direct connection to their police forces. I strongly believe this is the right direction for Akron to take, and I am committed to implementing an independent board here in an expeditious and timely manner.”
Other communities across the state have similar review panels. A federal consent decree in Cleveland created the Community Policing Commission in about 2015, one of several steps to reform the city’s police force. The panel has listened to residents and made policy recommendations to police officials.
“If Akron really wants to do something, and it should because of what it is going through now, the review board must do more than make recommendations; it must have some power to change things,” said Lewis Katz, the co-chairman of the Cleveland commission.
Horrigan and other city officials have delivered daily press briefings since last week to keep the city updated on issues surrounding Walker’s death.
Walker was shot on June 27 by eight Akron police officers after a brief car pursuit that quickly evolved into a foot chase that ended near East Wilbeth Road and Clairmont Avenue. During the car chase, police officers said they saw a gun fired from Walker’s car.
As officers ran after Walker, one patrolman said he believed he saw Walker reach for his waistband. Walker did not have a weapon when he was shot.
The office of the Summit County Medical Examiner on Friday released details of an autopsy, which showed Walker’s body was struck 41 times. Five bullets also grazed him.
Since the shooting, Walker’s family and attorneys have demanded police accountability and a policy change at the police department that would prevent police pursuits for minor offenses and force the city to acquire dash cams for cruisers.
Akron’s Racial Equity and Social Justice Taskforce recommended the city form a citizens review board between 2023-2025. The task force was created in 2020 to push policy changes for a more racially equitable city.
On Sunday, Horrigan and Steve Mylett, the city’s police chief, met with the Black Elected Officials of Summit County about priorities to help the city and its police force.
One of the key issues discussed involved installing dash cams in all of the city’s cruisers.
Mylett said the city’s administration supports adding the dash cameras to police cruisers.
Vernon Sykes, the Democratic state senator from Akron, wrote a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine to ask for funding to buy and install dash cams.
City Council is expected to gather feedback from residents before voting on the citizens panel and dash cameras. Council will decide on the plans by the end of the year.
“The incorporation of a citizen review board is the logical next step as we re-imagine public safety and community policing in Akron,” said Margo Sommerville, the president of City Council, in a statement.