Sommerville thankful for new day of cooperation between police, Council and auditor

June 10, 2009

Akron City Council President Marco Sommerville heaped praise on the Akron Police Department and its new chief, Craig V. Gilbride, for starting a new chapter of dialogue and understanding with Council and Akron's Independent Police Auditor.

Sommerville (W-3) took time at the close of Monday night's meeting to thank the department under Gilbride's leadership for keeping its door open to Council, for listening to constituent concerns and for taking steps to implement some of the changes recommended by Police Auditor Phil Young.

Gilbride had previously promised a new spirit of cooperation with Council when addressing a meeting in December of last year after former Chief Mike Matulavich retired. In November, Council had called for city-wide support of the auditor in his mission to improve communication and trust between the police and citizens.

Sommerville was concerned that the police department was not cooperating with Young's investigations into citizen use of force complaints.

"I sometimes criticize the police department, but I attribute the changed attitude to Chief Gilbride," Sommerville said. "I think the chief really sees what's going on. He's been a breath of fresh air."

Some of the auditor's recommendations that the department has implemented include:

  • Holding regular monthly status meetings between the auditor and the police chief, deputy chief, lieutenants from the department's Office of Professional Standards and Accountability, and captains from the department's Service and Detective Bureaus;
  • Requiring officers responding to traffic accidents to give statement forms to all parties involved in the incident; and
  • Requiring all officers reporting facts in use of force reports to write their own individual statements, and eventually disclose whether the incident was captured on audio or video tape.

"We are now at the table together," Young said. "Chief Gilbride has expressed an interest and concern for continuous improvements that can be made to make the department stronger and better. He has been open to listen and discuss recommendations."

Sommerville said while he may still call some Akron police procedures into question, he will always make a point to emphasize how much the department is appreciated.

"I've told them how much we as a Council appreciate what they do," Sommerville said. "I plan to go to a roll call one day soon and let them know we as a Council support them."