CLEVELAND (WJW) – Police union officials are calling for the city’s safety director to be fired for what they say are “racist” comments.
Cleveland Police Union President Jeff Follmer said a vote of no confidence will take place at a directors meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, at 1 p.m. for Cleveland Director of Public Safety Director Karrie Howard.
Follmer said Howard allegedly made what he believes to be “bias” and “racist” remarks about the Irish history of the police department during a public forum at the World Church on Feb. 6.
“His comments were completely outrageous,” said Atty. Henry Hilow, who represents the Cleveland police union. “What is most disturbing is the mayor, along with the chief of police, were there when these comments were made. His comments that the Irish community saturated the police and fire departments is a disservice to the dedication and commitment to the hard working men and women that serve the public. His comments send the wrong message for diversity and fairness. He should be fired.”
We asked for a statement from Mayor Justin Bibb but have not yet received a response.
Howard, however, issued the following statement.
“I want to address concerns regarding comments I made on Monday night during a panel discussion at The Word Church. First, I want to apologize to anyone who was hurt or offended by my remarks. I have the utmost respect for all who serve this great city and I appreciate the feedback you have given me.
“During the panel discussion, I attempted to use a historical point to illustrate how a group of people created a culture of change by becoming part of the institution they sought to reform. These comments were intended to convey sincere admiration for the Irish Clevelanders who shaped our city by being the change they wanted to see—a point that I failed to fully articulate. Again, I deeply apologize for any pain or offense these comments have caused.
“During my career in the military and as a prosecutor, I have had the privilege of working with diverse people from all walks of life. I have served alongside members of nearly every faith, nationality, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. I hold a deep respect for every single individual who answers the call to keep our city and our country safe.
“As the city’s safety director, my focus is on addressing concerns in the community, finding solutions that create a bridge of trust between the community and police, and improving the safety of the City of Cleveland. The Bibb Administration is committed to police reform, accountability, and the safety of our residents. Together we have taken several steps to address racial bias in the workplace, including mandatory cultural competency training for all public safety employees, all with the goal to foster a biased free workplace. Discrimination of any kind, against anyone, will not be tolerated.
“Good law enforcement, accountability, and a change in culture is needed for effective police reform to be successful. Cleveland’s police reform agenda can be a model for the nation, with multiple layers and mechanisms for police oversight including the Consent Decree, Office of Professional Standards, Inspector-General, Civilian Police Review Board and Community Police Commission. I am excited to work with the new Community Police Commission to create a safer Cleveland for all residents. It is only together, in all our diversity, that we can we bring about the reforms we need and the safer city we want. “