Council Members Push Back On Sundermann Motion To Not Defund Police

Sep 23, 2020

Cincinnati City Council did not vote on a motion from Council Member Betsy Sundermann Wednesday that states "council does not support the movement to defund the Cincinnati Police Department."

Mayor John Cranley rejected an effort to hold a vote on amending the motion to add a proposed paragraph from Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld and changing "defund" to "abolish." Cranley said that wasn't proper since the paragraph to be added had not been shared with the public prior to the meeting.

Sittenfeld's paragraph acknowledged that police officers have difficult jobs and also support the "inspiring national movement for greater racial justice."  His proposed addition ended with, "the city council also strongly supports and affirms that Black Lives Matter."

City Council never voted on the actual Sundermann motion; instead it rejected voting on the measure as presented.

"The time to dismantle police is not when they are facing intense public animosity, when we need them to be keeping us safe and secure the most," Sundermann said in a statement.

Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney said "defunding" has as many meanings as those who say it.

"It is premature to give our administration direction on funding before we have even heard suggestions that members of the community would like to present," Kearney said in a statement. "To give our administration a mandate on funding before we have even listened to ideas for cost-savings or reallocation of some of the work that police officers do to non-police entities, is a statement to our community that we do not care what they have to say."

Before council debated the Sundermann motion, there were nearly 40 speakers who addressed the issue during the public comment period. 

Many of them shared the same message that City Council heard during budget meetings in June. They want to take money away from the police department and direct it instead to social service programs.

"This motion is so vile and negligent that it manages to deny the possibilities for our community and police to receive help," said Cynthia McCall. "This is the opposite of what we have been asking you to do."

"If you kick this down the road, you're going to lose the trust and the faith of the community and the support, and you'll wish that you had addressed this sooner," said Quincy Canady. "The police have not used their previous increases to make the improvements needed."

There were three public speakers who expressed support for Sundermann's motion, including Sherry Reynolds.

"For some reason you think the solution to lawlessness is to cut funding to the very people who are protecting your safety today, right here and right now." Reynold said. "In actuality you should be increasing their funding by way of additional training and higher salaries, by recruiting the best of the best."

It's unclear if any council member will take Sundermann's original motion and reintroduce it with the proposed amendments that did not receive a vote Wednesday.

As the meeting was ending, several council members said they were disappointed with some of the profanity during the public comment period.  One speaker even referred to Sundermann as a "boot licking b****."  Council members said those comments had no place at City Hall.

Mayor Cranley said there are legal concerns about removing someone from the council chamber for violating council rules on language. He also again made the case that the CitiCable cameras should be turned off for public comments as they were prior to last year. He said stopping the broadcast of those remarks might reduce the use of profanity, or at the very least make sure that it’s not being broadcast into homes where children may be watching.