In a scathing rebuke of Cleveland’s police practices, the city and U.S. Department of Justice have entered into a court enforceable agreement to halt excessive use of force by officers.
The DOJ on Tuesday released findings of a 21-month investigation that began in 2013, according to the complaint, saying officers frequently used unreasonable force against residents — many of whom pose little or no threat of harm to the officers, themselves, or others.
Upon approval by a federal judge, the city is legally bound to enact the reforms included in the 105-page report.
The agreement calls for officers to be trained in “bias-free” policing and that “use of a firearm as an impact weapon could result in death to suspects, bystanders and themselves.” They will also be trained to de-escalate situations verbally rather than using firearms. They will be barred from showing firearms unless they believe lethal force is necessary, the report says.
The findings confirm years of complaints from mostly poor and Black residents that officers routinely used unnecessary and excessive deadly force, “including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons.” They also found the use of unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force, including Tasers, pepper spray and fists, the report says.
The probe also found officers used excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called only for assistance. In some of these cases, officers frequently used poor and dangerous tactics that placed them in situations where avoidable force became inevitable and put officers and civilians at unnecessary risk, the report says.
Federal officials hope the agreement will serve as a blueprint for police reforms for departments across the nation amid a crisis over excessive use of force in Black and other minority communities.
“There is much work to be done, across the nation and in Cleveland, to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve where it has eroded, but it can be done,” Vanita Gupta, head of Civil Rights Division, said in prepared remarks released Tuesday. “Today’s agreement may serve as a model for those seeking to address similar issues in their communities.”
The report comes after outrage erupted Saturday when Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John O’Donnell acquitted Cleveland Officer Mike Brelo in the shooting deaths of an unarmed, African American couple after a high-speed chase in 2012.
It also comes nearly six months after Tamir Rice was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer as he played with a toy gun on a playground. Cleveland officers responded to a 911 call that reported a person pointing a gun that was possibly a toy. A sheriff’s investigator told CNN about two weeks ago that findings of an investigation into Tamir’s death should be released soon.
We’re glad that the DOJ and Cleveland have reached an agreement that can possibly serve as a model for other cities struggling to contain police violence against citizens of color.
We hope that this is an effective response to a national crisis.
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