Mayor Faces Hundreds of Angry Residents
I have to say that I was very skeptical about the closing of the Third District Police Station. Mostly, because we spent 12 years (which cooresponds to the number of years of the White Administration) in court suing the City over police conduct toward homeless people. We never got to see the inside of a court room settling all of these suits out of court, and there is no doubt that the police were responding to directives from the City of Cleveland. But we now have a Commander that we can talk to, and police that were trained to deal with fragile populations. We have two officers who act as liaisons to the homeless providers and have tried to relate to the homeless populations. So, I along with others were weary.
But, I listened to the Mayor for over three hours and I have to say I am convinced. This plan will be good for the whole City, and this is all based on factual information. I do not think that this will be good for homeless population, but for the whole City it is the only plan that would work. I stayed to ask a question about the transition plan, but the Mayor is leaving all those details to the Chief and to the Safety Director. The big fear is that they will just cast the current officers of the Third District to the wind and so all the relationships that were developed in certain neighbhorhoods will be lost. The Mayor was not budging on setting direction for placing officers in very specific neighborhoods that they are familiar. So, we will all have to wait and see.
The Mayor has amazing endurance to answer questions including, "Are you a dictatator or Why don't all your command staff including the Safety Director live in Cleveland?" He was very honest, and straight forward answering every question. He faced a very hostile audience who almost all were tied to the Third District building and the people inside that building. There was so much fear in the room that things would get worse. They were worried their businesses would suffer, property crimes would rise, and the fragile security that most people have will be lost with this plan. The most amazing aspect of the meeting were the relatively small number of African Americans who attended the meeting. Only one African American individual asked a question. I think that the Mayor did a good job of settling some of those concerns and promised to return in a year to look at the progress.
The police are way ticked off by the proposal. The FOP and Patrolman's Association are not happy at all. They want the issue to go to the voters. The Mayor did a good job in explaining that he was not going to debate this forever, and the buck stops with him. He said repeatedly that the "Proof is in the Pudding," and that if this does not work people would vote him out of office. The Third District officers do not want to be stuffed in a building on Chester Ave with no parking in a building that they believe are falling down. They implied that in the seventh most dangerous city in the United States that this will only exasserbate those issues. They worry that if a Code 1 call comes in and every car in the district that is available has to respond how will a zone car downtown get all the way across the river to Lorain Ave. in the new expanded Second District? The Mayor said that they are now going to be able to do reports from their cars so they will not be so tied to a certain building. They are also getting rid of the jails at the various districts and moving to central booking at the justice center. This would now become a County function.
The Councilmembers are not happy, and the Mayor made a very good point that he could just say the politically popular statement and then leave and do whatever he wanted. He knew that this is not popular for this neighborhood, but it is best for the City. He was clear that since he lives in the Third District it does have an impact on his life as well. The Mayor said that there were nine months for study and input, but now is the time to move forward. He said that the Chief read all the letters and took those into account and in fact responded to those concerns.
NEOCH is going to have weigh in on the transition plan to make sure that the current issues with homeless people are not lost. There is no doubt that we will be losing one of the Commanders and so it is unlikely that Third District Commander will be interacting with the shelters and homeless people in the future. The Downtown zone will now be part of the Second District, and they already have a Commander who is relatively new. This is a loss, but hopefully he will get an assignment to bring similar improvement to another section of the City. We will have to establish a relationship with a new Lieutenant who will be assigned to a new Downtown Safety Unit of 18 officers who will be assigned to the Central Business District.
Posts by Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless staff and Board.