Akron City Council forms special committee on police reform

AKRON, Ohio — Akron City Council President Margo Sommerville announced Friday the formation of a special committee that includes all council members to explore ways to improve the city’s police and other public safety forces.

The committee on “Reimagining Public Safety” is expected to release a report of its recommendations on Dec. 7, Sommerville said in a news release.

After Dec. 7, City Council will work toward implementing the changes with Mayor Dan Horrigan, Police Chief Ken Ball, the police department and the community, Sommerville said.

“The continued trust between law enforcement and communities requires constantly improving our systems of recruitment, training, use of force, technology, and accountability,” Sommerville said. “This is a moment to think about what else makes our community safe — from strong neighborhood ties and block watches to mental health intervention specialists, to parks and recreation programs, and so much more.”

Council members will work on one of four subcommittees: department personnel and culture, accountability and transparency, crisis prevention and technology and equipment.

Over the next several months, the groups will research, engage with the community and work with the Police Department, before offering a report of issues and potential reforms.

The “personnel and culture” group, which will address issues of policing hiring, training and equity, has Ward 5 Councilwoman Tara Samples as chair, Ward 6 Councilman Brad McKitrick as co-chair and At-Large Councilman Jeff Fusco as a member.

The “accountability and transparency” group will address police department policies and procedures, the role of the police auditor and accessibility to policing-related information. It will be chaired by At-Large Councilwoman Ginger Baylor, with Ward 8 Councilman Shammas Malik as co-chair and Ward 2 Councilman Phil Lombardo as a member.

The “prevention” subcommittee, which will look at community policing, collaborations with mental health services and new approaches to neighborhood safety, will have Ward 1 Councilman Rich Swirsky as chair, At-Large Councilwoman Linda Omobien as co-chair and Ward 9 Councilman Mike Freeman as a member.

The “technology and equipment” group will examine the department’s use of data, body-worn cameras and military-style supplies. It will be chaired by Ward 7 Councilman Donnie Kammer, with Ward 10 Councilwoman Sharon Connor as co-chair and Ward 4 Councilman Russ Neal as a member.

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By Robin Goist

Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)