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Freedom BLOC sends letter to Akron elected officials demanding public safety reforms for Black community

"We can no longer sit and watch as Black lives are acknowledged and erased as fleeting media moments."

AKRON, Ohio — The nationwide call for a renewed focus on racial justice has continued in the weeks following George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. Now, one group of Akron leaders have proposed a series of policy changes that they believe will benefit every life in the city.

On Tuesday, Freedom BLOC Executive Director Raymond Greene Jr. along with several other community faith leaders and advocates sent a letter to Akron’s city council members, chief of police, the mayor, and the Governor demanding policy changes that would prioritize the public safety of Black Akronites. 

In the letter, the signers’ highlight examples of police brutality that display a pattern for the disregard of black lives. The letter goes on to outline five policy demands:

  1. State and Local Lawmakers ensure that the police that are patrolling the Black community are from a similar Black community and/or have intensive and extensive cultural competency training, along with implicit bias training and have to volunteer in the community that they are patrolling at least 10 hrs a month.
  2. The Deputy Mayor, City Council, and Police Chief work with Community Leaders and Black Mental Health agencies to develop, provide and make mandatory mental health training for all APD officers in order to ensure that our mental health population is treated with dignity and respect.
  3. We want 25% of the police budget to go to prevention programs in the inner city and that Asset forfeiture programs (money and property seized from illegal activities) be widely publicized to ensure that the folks on the front lines doing the work have the necessary resources to make our community better.
  4. We are demanding that the Police Auditor is designated as Police Investigator and he/she is given the necessary tools to investigate properly and discipline rogue police officers and that a Community Civilian Review Board is made up of civilians from each ward and instituted immediately. These tools include but are not limited to Subpoena power and disciplinary power to ensure that the Black community is able to build trust that rogue officers will be disciplined and removed from Black communities where they have done harm.
  5. We are demanding that police be removed from all public schools and replaced with mental health trained community resource personnel.

Freedom BLOC has already begun reaching out to city leaders to hold a virtual town hall meeting via Zoom on July 8. 

In a complimentary Day of Action on July, 7th-10th Freedom BLOC will partner with other organizations and the community to promote voter registration and online census participation. 

You can read the entire letter below.

Akron City Council Members, Police Chief Kenneth R. Ball II, Mayor Daniel Horrigan, and Governor Mike DeWine

We are Akron community faith leaders, elected officials, community organizers, and reform advocates coming together to demand that our local elected officials take action to end this era in American history that has allowed for the consistent and unjust exploitation of Black bodies, Black voices, and Black votes. The time has come to prioritize the public safety of Black Akronites by investing more in impoverished Black communities and divesting in non-healthy safety practices that have proven not to work such as over-policing.

The protests that have erupted following, yet another senseless and preventable murder of an unarmed Black man have proven that we have reached the climax in the struggle for racial equality. We can no longer sit and watch as Black lives are acknowledged and erased as fleeting media moments.

It was not just a moment when: 

Ahmaud Arbery’s life was taken by the hands of a father and son lynch mob;

We witnessed a state sanction hit ordered on our dear sister Breonna Taylor in her own home;

A public lynching took place on the streets of Minnesota by four Minnesota State Sanctioned gang members in broad daylight taking the life of young brother George Floyd; 

A black woman by the name of Sha’Teiny Grady El in Detroit was punched in the face by a Detroit State Sanction Gang Member for protesting the death of unarmed Black citizens;

Young Black youth in Akron get accosted, demeaned and belittled by the gang called the APD;

The Blue Lives Matter gang fired shots at a 19-year-old unarmed Elijah Cade during a traffic stop and stayed on the job; 

Or when our great Black leaders of Ohio, comrades in the struggle for Black liberation and friends of many in this city Emilia Sykes and Vernon Sykes were threatened with bodily harm for speaking up and being the voice of Black people all throughout Ohio.

These examples show a pattern for the disregard of black lives and a disregard that will only change if policy changes and that is why we have crafted a set of demands that if enacted with haste and integrity will benefit every life in Akron.

We are demanding:

State and Local Lawmakers ensure that the police that are patrolling the Black community are from a similar Black community and/or have intensive and extensive cultural competency training, along with implicit bias training and have to volunteer in the community that they are patrolling at least 10 hrs a month.

The Deputy Mayor, City Council, and Police Chief work with Community Leaders and Black Mental Health agencies to develop, provide and make mandatory mental health training for all APD officers in order to ensure that our mental health population is treated with dignity and respect.

We want 25% of the police budget to go to prevention programs in the inner city and that Asset forfeiture programs (money and property seized from illegal activities) be widely publicized to ensure that the folks on the front lines doing the work have the necessary resources to make our community better.

We are demanding that the Police Auditor is designated as Police Investigator and he/she is given the necessary tools to investigate properly and discipline rogue police officers and that a Community Civilian Review Board is made up of civilians from each ward and instituted immediately. These tools include but are not limited to Subpoena power and disciplinary power to ensure that the Black community is able to build trust that rogue officers will be disciplined and removed from Black communities where they have done harm.

We are demanding that police be removed from all public schools and replaced with mental health trained community resource personnel

We urge you to comply. Doing so will be seen as a sign of your support for the equitable treatment of Black people.

Sincerely,

Raymond Greene Jr.

Executive Director

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