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Cleveland Safety Committee Discusses Block Party Security, Police Funding

Cleveland’s Safety Committee is considering a proposal to eliminate a requirement for security at small Cleveland block parties.

Currently, block party organizers must hire two security officers for their events. The proposal would allow organizers to skip that step, unless the event is expected to have more than 100 people in attendance.

Requiring security at every party has put financial strain on the city, according to Councilman Matt Zone.

“In a perfect world, we would have 100 community police officers and we would have an officer who’s on duty assigned to one of these events,” Zone said. “This financial hardship is what really is difficult.”

Cleveland City Council has discussed the idea of removing the security requirement in the past, Zone said, but nothing official has been put in place. An online petition in favor of the change garnered 1,200 signatures, he said.

“Times are changing, and we’re getting a very adverse reaction to the policy that’s in place,” Zone said.

Officials researched event applications in other cities, from Cincinnati and Columbus to local suburbs like Cleveland Heights and Lakewood. None of them require applicants to ensure police officers are present.

The current plan would still require signoffs from council members for street closures, Zone said.

Police can still serve an important role in approving and setting up events, according to Deputy Police Chief Wayne Drummond, including protecting attendees from traffic and preventing violence.

“That’s not to say that it can’t happen with law enforcement there, because it can depending on the size,” Drummond said. “But I think it’s important that we have a robust conversation.”

Drummond asked for the Cleveland Division of Police to be involved in the conversation about the rule change moving forward and for a continued role in approving safety plans for events.

The committee could not vote on the amendment Wednesday, as it still needs approval from the city directors of law, finance, safety and public works. The amendment must also go before the planning commission before the Safety Committee can vote.

The amendment is part of a larger conversation about relations between police and the community, said Councilman Basheer Jones.

“Especially the time that we’re in, we want to mend the divide between the perception of police and the community,” he said.

Committee members discussed recent calls to defund police departments as part of a larger movement against police brutality.

At the heart of the defunding movement are calls for shifting responsibility and funds away from police and to other departments, Zone said.

“Nobody wants to get rid of police. No one in society,” Zone said. “We need law enforcement, we need a lawful society. But how can we shift some of the things that really the police shouldn’t be involved in?”

The department does need to better allocate resources and make other changes, said Police Chief Calvin Williams Wednesday.

“A lot of people are talking about defunding the police, a lot of people are talking about how we reallocate funds,” Williams said. “But we really need to look at those calls that we respond to, and see if there should be a different response.”

Some committee members criticized the department for a lack of diversity, including Councilman Joe Jones.

“We’re having a lot of younger officers coming in, they don’t know the community, they don’t know the people in the community, they can’t relate,” Jones said. “Then we have all these problems and issues.”

Committee members asked for a copy of an after-action police report on the events of the May 30 Downtown protests. The police department is expected to release that information to the public in three to four weeks.

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