Will Cleveland set the national standard for police reform?
Cleveland police have agreed to overhaul their practices and accept the supervision of a federal monitor in a settlement with the Department of Justice. The DOJ said it found a pattern of “unconstitutional policing” and aggressive use of force among Cleveland officers.
The reforms are meant to ease tensions between the black community and a police department that is two-thirds white.
“Today, May 26, 2015 marks a new way of policing in the City of Cleveland,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.
Among the reforms, the department agreed to:
· Document every use of force, including pointing a gun at someone
· Not use chokeholds or force to stop someone from running away
· Refrain from firing from or at moving vehicles, unless use of lethal force is justified
“I think we need substantive change, and we need to get it done rapidly,” Jackson said.
The City will also create a community police commission and appoint a civilian to lead the Internal Affairs Division. Other changes include emphasizing de-escalation and creating distance between the officers and potential threats.
Police reforms are a result of two high profile officer shootings:
On May 23, Officer Michael Brelo was acquitted of manslaughter for firing 15 shots from the hood of a car. Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, both black and unarmed, were killed Nov. 29, 2012, after they led 62 police vehicles on a chase across Cleveland. The verdict sparked violent protests over the weekend, with 71 arrests. At a demonstration in downtown Cleveland on Tuesday, about 500 people, including Cleveland Councilman Zack Reed, gathered to call for justice. “Our people are living in fear of those who are sworn to protect them, and that’s not fair to them,” Reed said.
In a second case last fall, officers pulled within a few feet of 12 year-old Tamir Rice. Within 2 seconds, a Cleveland police officer shot and killed Rice, who was holding a toy gun.
Head of the Justice Department, Civil Rights Division in the Northern District of Ohio, Steven Dettelbach said the Cleveland Police will adopt new policies “that minimize the opportunity for racial and other improper stereotypes in policing, including training on cultural competency and implicit biases…” The department will also collect and analyze data on all its stops, searches and seizures.
“Today, the nation should look to this city for an example of what true partnership and hard work can accomplish,” Dettelbach said. “But the hard work is just beginning, and we will need the committed partnership of this entire community to turn today’s promise into tomorrow’s reality.”