Civilians Get New Authority in Cleveland Police Settlement

By Gillispie, Mark | The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV), May 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

Civilians Get New Authority in Cleveland Police Settlement


Gillispie, Mark, The Charleston Gazette (Charleston, WV)


CLEVELAND - Cleveland's settlement agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice on reforming the city's troubled police department calls for civilians to play influential roles in investigating police misconduct and establishing policies and procedures. The city and Justice Department announced Tuesday that they'd reached a settlement on a consent decree that a federal judge must approve and an independent monitor will enforce. DOJ officials said in December that an 18-month investigation had found that Cleveland police had engaged in a pattern of excessive force and civil rights violations.

The 105-page agreement details new rules for how officers employ, report and investigate uses of deadly and nonlethal force, to include prohibitions against shooting at moving vehicles, striking suspects in the head with their firearms and using stun guns to inflict pain, examples of which were cited in the DOJ investigative findings. The agreement also requires Cleveland police to make community policing, which requires officers to work with citizens and to help them solve problems when possible, its core principle.

A striking component of the decree is the level of civilian authority in vital areas of police administration and oversight.

The agreement calls for a civilian to head the internal affairs unit, rather than a member of the police command staff. And a civilian will be appointed to the new position of police inspector general. No former employees of the Cleveland police department can hold those positions.

Additionally, a community police commission consisting of 10 civilians and a representative from each of the three police unions will be formed. According to the settlement, the commission will have the authority to review, recommend and comment on police department policies, procedures and performance, along with its adherence required reforms.

"It's fair to say the city has committed in this consent decree a vigorous civilian and community component in the way we're going to police in Cleveland, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said in an interview with The Associated Press. …

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