Shaker Heights chief responds to grassroots initiative to put police reform on the ballot

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 11:30 PM EDT
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SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - The top cop in Shaker Heights vowed to “never compromise the safety of any resident” after a coalition of civilians introduced a new ballot initiative focused on police reform.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” said Wayne D. Hudson, adding that he’s considering his own civilian advisory committee. “That’s a time for me to talk to them about what’s going on in the police department and bring in policies and procedures that I’m thinking about initiating that will touch the community. Give them time to go out and talk to constituents and bring me input.”

Hudson was sworn in as chief in January, now his department is at the center of a grassroots campaign organized by Shaker Citizens for Fair Ticketing.

On Saturday, the group pushed to reduce police brutality, increase public safety, and to demand more transparency in police reporting.

Citing city data, Shaker Citizens for Fair Ticketing said the city issued 71% of traffic tickets to Black drivers last year.

The group also pointed to the use of force, which they say involves Black or Hispanic people almost 100% of the time.

“We stand in unity as neighbors because of our collective belief in equality for Shaker Heights,” said Campaign Manager Ethan Khorana. “They’re common sense public safety reforms. Oversight board, transparency, and a new approach to patrolling. You would only not do this if [you] had something to hide.”

In a news release, the group outlined the following proposals:

  • Expanding the city’s Crisis Intervention Team by creating a newly formed Non-Violent Community Administrators Department that will distribute tickets, patrol neighborhoods, and respond to non-violent crimes and mental health services needs.
  • Create a Civilian Oversight Board to fast-track community complaints, modernize Shaker Heights, and review officers and newly established community administrators.
  • Create and curate a modernized, transparent, public police records database that tracks ticketing and uses of force to recognize bias and other challenges to equitable practices, and ensures easier complaint submission.

“[It’s] a ballot initiative that will ensure an equitable city and move Shaker Heights forward,” Khorana said, before calling Shaker Heights “more dangerous than 40% of the cities in America.”

Hudson, along with Mayor David Weiss declined to comment on the specifics of the campaign initiative, but Hudson pulled no punches when it comes to safety.

“If someone has an idea that they think will make the community safer, I’m willing to sit down and listen to it. But I will never compromise the safety of the residents in this city,” he told 19 News.

The group will need nearly 700 signatures to put the issue to vote next November.