The Racial Equity and Social Justice Task Force continues its work to promote equity and opportunity for black, immigrant and other marginalized communities in Akron.
The working group’s six sub-committees – covering education, health care, communication, criminal justice, housing and workforce development – summarized their progress in their second set of reports Last week.
At Tuesday meetingThe Rev. Joey Johnson, chair of the task force, provided an update on the successes of the subcommittees so far, including the work of his criminal justice subcommittee to advance many reforms in the office of the independent police auditor and his role in interviews with candidate police chiefs.
In May, the city pledged to make the post of police checker Phil Young a full-time position. and the hiring of a full-time administrative assistant for his office. The city also announced changes to Young’s access to information, including requiring the police department to notify the police auditor of civil complaints and use of force incidents and granting Young immediate access. body-worn camera images and other police documents.
The Criminal Justice Subcommittee of the Racial Equity and Social Justice Task Force and Akron City Council’s Committee to Reinvent Public Safety have both been instrumental in promoting change.
“We have to stress this because we are not waiting, we are not waiting for the end,” Johnson said. “The city has shown tremendous leadership in doing some of these things. “
Building on their preliminary ideas and recommendations, the sub-committees deepen local, state and national data and literature, and study best practices from other municipalities to strengthen their policy recommendations and identify other areas of need and of concern during their second trimester. reports.
Once the subcommittees present their third quarter reports on October 12 and November 9, the working group executive will review them and incorporate them into a final policy recommendation proposal that will be delivered to Mayor Dan Horrigan in December. . These recommendations will be accompanied by a five-year strategic plan to advance racial equity and improve the lives of all Akron residents.
Criminal Justice Subcommittee Chairman Bill Rich said his subcommittee would continue to focus on the area of policing because “the greatest need for reform is in the area of policing.”
Further, he said, policing within Akron “is almost entirely under the control of the city government”, unlike other prosecutions and corrections.
“The subcommittee is aware that policing is an aspect of the criminal justice system, or that objectives can and should be pursued in the areas of prosecution, defense and corrections,” said Rich said.
The criminal justice subcommittee will continue to work to recommend the creation of a civilian oversight board, Rich said. The subcommittee determines how many members should be on the board, what their qualifications and terms of service should be, among other considerations.
The subcommittee is also working on recommendations regarding body camera legislation and policy, including when police officers should wear body cameras and under what circumstances officers could be penalized for not wearing them, and access settings. from the police auditor to the pictures.
While he has yet to come up with specific recommendations regarding police hiring and promotion practices, Rich said the subcommittee “will likely focus on training in implicit bias, cultural skills. and de-escalation techniques ”. Likewise, any future recommendations regarding community policing would emphasize a department-wide approach, he said.
Brian Gage, Chair of the Housing Subcommittee, praised many aspects of the city of Akron The Planning to Grow Akron 2.0 initiative, which aims to stimulate private and public investment and put in place better protections for tenants and residents of lower-income neighborhoods in Akron. But Gage also noted that the initiative fails by targeting certain neighborhoods while leaving behind others that have historically struggled and continue to suffer from divestment.
“That’s what we’re going to look at in Quuarter 3, it’s really focusing the city on the areas of divestment,” Gage said.
The education subcommittee is still working on drafting policy changes focused on student access, pandemic recovery as it relates to student success, intercultural and cultural skills, development and professional training of educators and fiscal transparency.
To facilitate the development of recommendations in the areas of student access, the subcommittee reviews the literature and requests data from all public and private schools in Akron showing the racial and ethnic distribution of students enrolled in the courses. specialized, advanced internships and university credit courses. The subcommittee also proposes the development of regular intervention programs throughout the year to help students who need additional help, especially during the pandemic.
Communications, health and equitable workforce development
The health subcommittee has worked to advance its policy recommendations regarding the prevention of youth violence and other public health issues, and the communications subcommittee continues to examine ways to improve two-way communication between the city of Akron and its various communities.
Mark Krohn, chairman of the Fair Workforce and Employment Development subcommittee, reiterated his subcommittee’s commitment to developing policy recommendations in four areas: supporting the growth of owned businesses minorities; professional development and retention of minorities and people of color employed in Akron and the City of Akron; sensitization of various communities regarding employment and training opportunities and elimination of bias in selection criteria; and creating a diverse talent pool by establishing or moving workforce development initiatives to disadvantaged neighborhoods and partnering with local community organizations to prepare candidates for local employment opportunities .
To better understand the issues of retention and professional development of people of color, the Employment Subcommittee suggests that the City of Akron conduct an internal review of its promotion and development of minority employees against white employees over the past decade. It also encourages the city to conduct exit interviews with exiting employees “to determine the reasons for leaving, obstacles to success, perceived biases, perceived conflicts, sources of discomfort, perceived reasons for any failure / lack. of success, and report those results to the city. leadership, city council and the fairness review committee. These data should guide the city’s professional development and minority retention efforts, the subcommittee’s quarterly report says.
Krohn said city employees contacted him “in various departments and said that many if not all of these things that were just recommended either do not exist or are not faithfully followed by Akron city leaders.”
He said the subcommittee was concerned about Akron city’s responsiveness to requests for information.
“We have received partial responses. We have tried to follow up and have received additional responses and additional information, but we really think we are concerned that we may not get all the information. We may not get all the information we need in the amount of time we need, and that’s a big concern for our subcommittee today, ”Krohn said.
Krohn also said that efforts to build a more equitable workforce are complex and must consider other barriers to success, including transportation, affordable child care, etc., and that the The task force’s work is not expected to end at the end of 2021.
Seyma Bayram is a member of the corps for Report for America, a national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms. Learn more at reportforamerica.org. Contact her at [email protected] or 330-996-3327 or on Twitter @ SeymaBayram0.