Reviewing news about police-related local ballot measures

So far this year, Ballotpedia has tracked six certified local ballot measures concerning police oversight, the powers and structure of oversight commissions, police practices, law enforcement department structure and administration, reductions in or restrictions on law enforcement budgets, law enforcement training requirements, and body and dashboard camera footage. We’re also tracking potential measures later this year in Minneapolis and Cleveland.

Of the six measures already certified, voters approved three and defeated two in elections this spring. One measure is certified for the August 3 ballot in Detroit pending a state supreme court ruling.

Last year, we identified 20 notable police-related measures in 10 cities and four counties that qualified for the ballot after the death of George Floyd in May 2020. Voters approved all 20 measures.

Here’s a summary of recent developments related to those measures:

Cleveland Community Police Commission and police oversight initiative faces signature deadline next week

The Cuyahoga County Board of Elections announced on June 25 that proponents of an initiative to rewrite Cleveland’s charter on police oversight and discipline authority fell several hundred signatures short of the required number. Citizens for a Safer Cleveland has 15 additional days to collect enough valid signatures to make up the difference and qualify the measure for this year’s ballot. 

Citizens for a Safer Cleveland submitted about 13,000 signatures to the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections on June 16. The campaign needed 6,270 valid signatures to qualify its measure for the ballot. The board determined that 5,886 of the submitted signatures were valid.

The initiative would give certain duties and authority over police oversight, investigations, and discipline to a Civilian Police Review Board and a Community Police Commission.

Click here to read more about this initiative in Cleveland.

Michigan Supreme Court to hear arguments on Detroit charter proposal, which includes police policy changes

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments on July 7 over Detroit’s Proposal P that is scheduled to go before voters on Aug. 3. Proposal P would replace Detroit’s charter with a new charter. Among many topics addressed by the charter revision, Proposal P contains several provisions related to police policy in the city, including

  • qualifications and disqualifications for the board of police commissioners;
  • the selection process for the chief of police;
  • training requirements on use of nonlethal and lethal force, racial bias and cultural sensitivities, de-escalation, and interactions with those affected by police brutality;
  • prohibitions on certain practices in response to protests, such as rubber bullets, paintballs, and tear gas;
  • a ban on no-knock warrants;
  • limitations on certain surveillance technology; and
  • civilian rights to record interactions with police officers, to know the reason for a police stop or detention, to know the name or badge number of any officer, and to request the presence of a supervising officer during a stop or detention

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether Proposal P requires Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) approval to appear on the ballot. The charter commission that drafted the proposal submitted it to Gov. Whitmer, but she declined to approve it. On June 1, the state supreme court suspended previous circuit and appeals court rulings that blocked the measure from the ballot. 

Click here to read more about Detroit Proposal P.

California Public Employment Relations Board overturns parts of Sonoma County’s 2020 oversight measure 

On June 23, the California Public Employment Relations Board overturned portions of Measure P, a police oversight-related measure that Sonoma County voters approved last year. The board ruled that certain provisions of Measure P violated the collective bargaining rights of the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department. The ruling overturned provisions allowing the Independent Office of Law Enforcement Review and Outreach (IOLERO) to:

  • conduct its own investigations of deputies, 
  • publish camera footage, 
  • subpoena records, 
  • provide disciplinary recommendations, and 
  • observe interviews during investigations by internal affairs.

The California Public Employment Relations Board is a commission of four appointees that rule on government labor issues. The board said that the unions representing county sheriffs should have had the opportunity to negotiate these provisions before they were enacted. 

The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors can appeal the decision to the California First District Court of Appeal.

Here is a sampling of reactions to the California Public Employment Relations Board’s ruling:

  • Karlene Navarro, the director of the law enforcement oversight office, said that the ruling “appears to essentially delete IOLERO’s independent investigatory power in its entirety and voids IOLERO’s subpoena power.”“Who is in charge of law enforcement oversight?” 
  • Sonoma County Board of Supervisors Chair Lynda Hopkins said. “Is it the more than 166,000 people in Sonoma County who voted yes on Measure P or is it the four members of the [labor board]?”
  • Mike Vail, president of the county sheriff deputy union, said that the union should have been invited to negotiate before the measure was put on the ballot. Vail said, “The Board of Supervisors rejected the appropriate legal process and squandered an opportunity to accomplish a mutually agreeable set of reforms.”

Click here to read more about Sonoma County Measure P.

California superior court judge tentatively overturns Los Angeles County measure on law enforcement budget restrictions

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel announced a tentative decision on June 17 to overturn last year’s Measure J. Strobel said that Measure J unconstitutionally limits how the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors can decide revenue allocations. Strobel gave 15 days for both plaintiffs and defendants to submit more evidence. She said she expected to issue a final ruling within the following weeks. 

The Coalition of County Unions, which includes the Assn. of Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs, filed the lawsuit against the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors.

Measure J, among other provisions, was designed to require that no less than 10% of the county’s general fund be appropriated to community programs and alternatives to incarceration, such as health services and pre-trial non-custody services, and prohibit those funds from being allocated to law enforcement. It was approved last year by Los Angeles County voters, 57% to 43%.

Click here to read more about Los Angeles County Measure J.