May 22, 2023 - Politics

Shaker Heights mayor opposes police reform ballot initiative

Teen organizer Ethan Khorana speaks at a microphone on a winter day, with crowd behind him

Teen organizer Ethan Khorana speaks at the Shaker Citizens for Fair Ticketing launch event. Photo: Courtesy of Sam Klein

The mayor of Shaker Heights has been arguing against a proposed ballot initiative that would make significant changes to the suburb's police department.

Catch up quick: Teen organizers behind Shaker Citizens for Fair Ticketing want to amend the city's charter to enhance the presence of nonviolent mental health professionals, establish a civilian oversight board and create a digital public records repository.

What they're saying: "While we don't disagree on the goals of [Shaker Citizens for Fair Ticketing] in concept, we strongly disagree with many of the specific charter amendments as proposed," Mayor David Weiss tells Axios.

  • "They would make Shaker Heights less safe, mandate a drastic reduction in our police department staffing, be very costly to implement and, in some cases, conflict with other charter provisions or other contractual obligations of the city."

Zoom in: The key provision Weiss opposes is hiring a so-called "nonviolent community administration team" that he says would require Shaker Heights to replace half of its police officers with mental health clinicians, social workers and medics.

  • Yes, but: The charter amendment language does not specify staffing numbers, only the sorts of duties that unarmed community administrators would be responsible for.

By the numbers: According to Weiss's estimates, paying for this new team would cost taxpayers $5.6 million annually.

The other side: In an Instagram post last month, Shaker Citizens for Fair Ticketing called Weiss' claims "unsubstantiated and entirely false."

  • The group doesn't support firing police officers, campaign manager Ethan Khorana told Axios, and they reject the mayor's financial projections, noting that in cities where similar programs have been implemented, annual costs ranged from $3.5 million to $5 million.

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