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Longtime advocate Iris Roley to serve as consultant on Collaborative Agreement work

smiling woman in red shirt with black, red and green jacket.
Iris Roley

Cincinnati is hiring community leader Iris Roley as the sustainability coordinator to consult on issues related to the Collaborative Agreement.

It's work with which she's well acquainted.

"I see this work as a continuation to the work that's already been done for the past 20 years," she says. "What I see this role is doing is merging community thoughts, values, request processes, with the city's thoughts, values and processes — all that have been outlined in detail for us in the Collaborative and its refresh."

The civil unrest in 2001 sparked by the deaths of Black men at the hands of Cincinnati police accelerated advocates' efforts for systemic reforms to the city's police department. Those reforms, mandated by federal courts after the unrest, became known as the Collaborative Agreement.

According to a release, Roley will be a link between the community and the city manager, helping facilitate engagement. She'll also work with the city as it begins the search for a new police chief.

Roley says she and the city manager "will do a lot of community engagement especially around the impact of violence in our community, youth engagement, issues of policing, public safety, community/police relations, community problem solving, and training. All of these things, again, are the goals (and) principles of the Agreement."

She expects to bring a new level of accountability to the city along with helping officials better understand the wants, needs and goals of the community, she says.

"I think it will be different in the level of accountability that we all will share in moving these very important issues forward. And it will give us a real time glimpse as to how things get done around community/police issues and how we've been able to move the needle on certain issues as it relates to this particular work and hopefully regain the status of being a model in the country."

As a founding leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front, Roley has been part of the Collaborative Agreement since the beginning. In the wake of protests surrounding the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many others in 2020, she encouraged a new generation of community leaders to build on the foundation that she and others created for them.

She says her institutional and historical knowledge will help her in this role as the new leaders grow into the work.

"The young folks are still front and center of the work as we continue to move it on. They will be learning firsthand to be a part of what the community does, so they are me and I am them."

In a statement, Mayor Aftab Pureval writes, "As we approach the 20th anniversary of the landmark Collaborative Agreement, it is as important as ever to remain faithful stewards of its guiding mission. Ms. Roley has been and will continue to be an essential partner in the city’s commitment to accountability, accessibility, and community-based problem solving. We are grateful to have her support in this critical work."

The six-month contract begins this week and includes an optional three month renewal period.

The city outlines the following five action areas:

1. Provide consultation and trainer services for the general operation of the city of Cincinnati’s MAG (Manager's Advisory Group, referring to the city manager). This will include delivering a summary report to the city manager regarding the status of the 2017 Collaborative Refresh recommendations that have been accomplished and those that are outstanding, as well as a plan to work collaboratively with the police chief and city manager to move forward.

2. Engage stakeholders through a series of community listening sessions on key topics including but not limited to the impact of violence in community; youth engagement on issues of policing and public safety; community-police relations; and community problem solving training.

3. Provide a review of the role of the Human Relations Division of the City Manager’s Office. In collaboration with the City Manager’s Office, Ms. Roley will report on the current role of the city’s Human Relations Division (HRD) and make recommendations to the city manager on how the HRD could be better utilized or engaged in work through the Collaborative Agreement, including but not limited to community engagement, violence prevention and communication strategies.

4. Provide advice regarding and facilitate community engagement with respect to the hiring of a new police chief as requested by the city.

5. Provide a series of dedicated on-boarding sessions for city of Cincinnati’s newly hired Collaborative Agreement Sustainability Manager (CASM). The CASM vacancy has been posted for a number of weeks and interviews will commence shortly. In addition to providing on-boarding sessions for this position that will educate the CASM on the historic and current overview of the Collaborative Agreement and CIRV initiative, Ms. Roley will also facilitate introductions with key community stakeholders. This contract begins this week and will last for a period of six months, with an optional three months-renewal period.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.