Audrianna Rodriguez presents the Community Police Commission budget at the commission's meeting at the Frederick Douglass Recreation Center, on Feb. 8, 2022. Credit: Erin Woisnet for Signal Cleveland

The Community Police Commission is asking City Council to approve a $2.3 million budget – almost $242,000 more than the minimum required by law to fund the powerful new police oversight commission.

The commission approved the proposed budget request earlier this month at its community meeting. The additional funding would allow for a “true executive director,” Interim Executive Director Jason Goodrick said.

Goodrick said previous commissions had an executive director in name only, a person who served more of a managerial role and reported to a city administrator. Issue 24, a ballot measure passed by voters in 2021, created a more independent commission and calls for an executive director and an assistant director.

During the Community Police Commission’s budget hearing, Audrianna Rodriguez, chair of the commission’s Budget and Grants Committee, advised City Council members to learn from the past and fully support the work of the commission. Cleveland has been under a consent decree with federal authorities twice due to police misconduct.

Commissioner Audrianna Rodriguez and Jason Goodrick, interim executive director of the Community Police Commission, answer questions from Cleveland City Council about the commission’s proposed budget during hearings at City Hall on Feb. 16, 2022. Credit: Stephanie Casanova / Signal Cleveland

While council members are eager to get out of the consent decree, if it’s not done properly, there may be a third visit from the U.S. Department of Justice, she said. 

“I really believe that ensuring that we have the tools and resources to perform our work would be beneficial to the city,” Rodriguez said. “And enhance us by creating a city that is competitive with best practices as well as ensuring a safe community for residents, officers and our future generations.” 

The Community Police Commission was created in 2015 as part of the consent decree between Cleveland and the Department of Justice. 

Until voters passed Issue 24, that commission advised the city on police reform policies and training and on police discipline. But a lot of their recommendations didn’t make it into those policies, Goodrick said.

The new Community Police Commission has final say on police discipline cases and Division of Police policies and training. 

As part of Issue 24, the city is required to provide at least $1 million for the commission, plus 0.5% of the police budget – or $1,089,707. The half-percent amount is to be used for grants for community-based violence prevention, restorative justice, and mediation programs. 

The city supported a budget of $2,313,759, which includes $1,224,052 — about 22% more than the required minimum — along with the 0.5% of the police budget.

Delante Thomas (left), chief ethics officer for the City of Cleveland, and Jason Goodrick (right), interim executive director of the Community Police Commission, answer questions about the budget during their meeting at the Frederick Douglass Recreation Center on Feb. 8, 2022. Credit: Erin Woisnet for Signal Cleveland

The additional funding is meant to help with staffing to support the commission’s work, Goodrick said. 

“They recognize the commission has a lot of work to do and a lot of responsibility,” he said. 

The additional funding will allow for competitive pay for the executive director and assistant director positions, Goodrick said. The commission listed the maximum pay for an executive director at just short of $155,000 and maximum pay for an assistant executive director of around $110,500. 

Goodrick said he proposed those salaries after looking at the salaries for the Office of Professional Standards and the Community Relations Board. He also checked the city’s job postings weekly for comparable positions, he said.

The commission will also use additional funds to hire an attorney to advise the commission. The attorney will not represent the commission in any lawsuits. The Cleveland Law Department will represent the commission in court. 

City Council is expected to vote on the city’s General Fund budget in the coming weeks. 

Council Member Joe Jones said he was excited to see what the commission will do  and supports giving it additional funding. He reinforced how important it will be for the commission to get public input on what residents want from their police department. 

“I’m excited about the opportunities of the commission,” Jones said. “I am opposed to any thoughts and processes that would come out of the commission that would say that we shouldn’t have more police or that we should reimagine the police budget. It’s not your position to reimagine the police budget. It is your position to handle the issues that’s before you and make sure that we have a great quality policing force.”

Council Members Brian Kazy and Michael Polensek pointed out that this is the only department that the city is required to be funded at a certain capacity. 

Kazy said anything beyond the minimum required funding is a “generous gift.” He said he wants to ensure the city is staying within its means.

This story has been updated for clarity on Feb. 24.

Stephanie Casanova, Criminal Justice Reporter

Criminal Justice Reporter (she/her)
Stephanie, who covered criminal justice and breaking news at the Chicago Tribune, is a bilingual journalist with a passion for storytelling that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the communities she covers. She has been a reporter and copy editor for local newspapers in South Dakota, Kansas and Arizona. Stephanie is also a Maynard 200 alumni, a Maynard Institute for Journalism Education training program for journalists of color that focuses on making newsrooms more equitable, diverse and anti-racist.