Shaker Heights mayor pushes back on safety reform initiative

Published: Apr. 24, 2023 at 9:08 PM EDT
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SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio (WOIO) - The mayor of Shaker Heights released a video on the city’s website, pushing back against a ballot initiative launched last month aimed at public safety reforms, including a citizen oversight board.

“We firmly believe that the Charter amendments do not address the concerns raised by the proponents and in fact would make Shaker Heights residents and police officers less safe,” said Mayor David Weiss. “So while City Council and I are always open to ideas for improvements in the ways we deliver City services, we will never support ideas that make the City and our residents less safe.”

The video, posted on April 12, is a response to the efforts of Shaker Citizens for Fair Ticketing, which launched its campaign in March.

Citing city data, the group says the city issued 71% of traffic tickets to Black drivers last year. They also pointed to the use of force, which they say involves Black or Hispanic people almost 100% of the time.

They also pointed to rising crime in the east side suburb.

“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.

Mayor Weiss said the statistics presented by the group differ from the city’s internal numbers.

“With respect to safety, City statistics show that serious crimes have actually decreased, steadily and significantly, in Shaker Heights since the mid-1970s, with the last seven years seeing the lowest numbers of serious crimes since 1959,” Weiss said. “Furthermore, we believe certain facts and statistics used by the proponents are either incorrect, misleading or used out of context.”

On Monday, Khorana stood by the group’s research and slammed the mayor’s message.

“It’s fearmongering. Point blank. Period,” he told 19 News. “I think we need to ask more of our elected officials and we need to stop with the lies, bogus semantics inside our city and really get down to our issues.”

The group needs to collect about 665 total signatures in support of the initiative by September to get it placed on the November ballot.

Mayor Weiss’ office has released a number of documents related to the proposed charter amendment, including a full transcript of the mayor’s comments.

The entire proposal can be viewed by clicking here.