Cleveland voters Tuesday approved Issue 24 by a wide 59%-41% margin, according to unofficial results from the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections.
Andrew Boryga / November 2, 2021
On Monday morning, Jeff Follmer, president of the largest police union in Cleveland, Ohio, held up a picture of Kareem Hinton, a Black activist from the city. His T-shirt read: “No tears for dead cops.”
“This is one of the petitioners that is for this campaign,” Follmer, who is white, told the cameras.
He went on to argue that Issue 24—a city charter amendment that would create a civilian-led police commission to serve as final arbiter on police discipline and set policy for the department—was really about revenge, not accountability.
“This group does not like the police,” Follmer told The Daily Beast in an interview on Monday.
The union boss, who was re-elected as president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association last November, was speaking about Citizens for a Safer Cleveland, an umbrella coalition of social-justice organizations in the city that helped get the amendment on the ballot.
“They’ve all had problems with the police. They are not friends of the police,” he inveighed.
If the remarkable new ballot proposal Follmer is so alarmed about passes, he has suggested that a new oversight group made up of cops’ worst enemies would have more power than the mayor and police chief to control discipline—and would impose a “one-sided” process. In a police department that already has roughly 150 vacancies and another 300 officers eligible for retirement, he claimed, the amendment would also trigger an exodus of officers and chaos for the city.
“I’m a factual person, I don’t throw bullshit out there,” Follmer told The Daily Beast. “We get down 400 people, we’re fucked.”
Since the summer of 2020, threats of officers leaving cities in droves and crime rising in their absence have hung over conversations about police reform and in some cases led to cities like Atlanta and even liberal Burlington, Vermont, seemingly backtracking on their efforts. Now, a desperate police union in Cleveland is throwing the kitchen sink at what amounts to a seismic reform on the ballot Tuesday, even as activists say a department with a history of horrific brutality needs to quit the fearmongering and accept reality.
“Many of the problematic veterans are going to retire, which is fine,” Hinton, an organizer for Black Lives Matter Cleveland and a member of Citizens for a Safer Cleveland, told The Daily Beast.
The local police department entered into a consent decree with the Department of Justice in 2015. A DOJ investigation at the time found the city’s department featured “structural and systemic deficiencies and practices” and concluded cops there used “unreasonable force,” and had “insufficient accountability, inadequate training, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community,” according to a findings letter.
In 2002, the feds had opened up a previous investigation into the department that closed in 2004 after agreement on reforms.