Akron City Council fails to appoint citizen police review board for 2nd time

Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 10:50 PM EST
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AKRON, Ohio (WOIO) - Many people in Akron are frustrated because the city council can’t seem to agree on something that its citizens overwhelmingly voted for: the new citizen police review board.

The Akron city council is already one week past the deadline they had to seat the new board but on the second try, but they still couldn’t do it.

“This council is completely broken,” one citizen said. “If this council is broken then our city is broken!”

On Monday, the Akron city council once again voted on six candidates for the new police advisory board.

Once again one young lawyer, Imokhai Okolo, was at the center of the drama.

“So stop playing with us, we’re not playing with you,” another citizen said. “The emerging leaders and the constituents of this city want a progressive government and we will have it.”

Some residents seemed shocked when council member Ginger Baylor abstained from voting, saying she didn’t want to vote for a group of candidates but for individual candidates instead.

“I regret making this decision, but I think it’s in the best interest of a clear understanding of political identities on my part,” said Councilwoman Baylor.

Councilman Donnie Kammer, who was absent last week, said he had taken time to look into candidates and learned some had contributed to council members’ campaigns.

Councilman Shammas Malik admitted Okolo contributed to his campaign.

“No contribution that’s ever been made to me has influenced a single thing that I’ve done here,” Malik said. “I have been very clear that I think Mr. Okolo is incredibly well qualified and he has made comments that I am uncomfortable with that bother me but the problem that we have in this community is that there is a deep level of pain and anger and frustration, particularly in the Black community in the interactions with police in this community. We are not going to make progress in this community as long as we say that some perspectives are invalid because there have been comments made that reflect that frustration and anger. We have to engage with those feelings.”

Some council members claimed they couldn’t support Okolo because of a social media post he made shortly after Jayland Walker’s death where he referred to police as “pigs”.

Last week, Councilman Jeff Fusco told 19 News he had made a commitment to the head of the Akron Police Union, Clay Cozart.

“I made a commitment that I can’t support him,” Fusco said. “Why is it exactly was because of a number of reasons, one of the reasons is the postings.”

On Monday night, dozens of citizens directly accused members of the board of institutional racism for blocking Imokhai Okolo’s appointment to the board.

“You aren’t sworn judges you are city council,” another man said. “You are sworn to the will of people.”

“He’s arguably the most qualified candidate to be on it,” another woman said. “A handful of old white men preventing Imokhai from being on the board whose strings are pulled by the FOP is textbook definition of institutional racism.”

One councilman asked what the repercussions were for the board for being in violation of the charter agreement.

The city’s attorney said the charter did not specify any penalties.

Akron Council President Margo Sommerville told 19 News the council will hold a special meeting later this week to figure out what the next steps are.