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Cleveland to Overhaul Police Practices in DOJ Settlement

The city of Cleveland and the Department of Justice (DOJ) reached an agreement Tuesday that will implement broad policing reforms focused on reducing the use of force and racial bias. The agreement follows a DOJ investigation in December that found the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) "engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution."

Cleveland has been one of the focal points of recent discussions and protests regarding police violence following the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and the acquittal of Officer Michael Brelo, who fired 49 shots at an unarmed couple following a police chase in 2012, killing them both.

No Simple Solution

The reforms under the agreement will also focus on bias-free policing and new officer training techniques. Some of the new measures require:

  • The creation of Community Police Commission, made up of ten representatives from across the community, and one representative each from the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Black Shield.
  • CDP to reform use of force policies, including requirements for the use of de-escalation techniques whenever possible and appropriate, a prohibition on retaliatory force, mandatory reporting and investigation standards following use of force, and medical care for the subjects of force.
  • CDP to integrate bias-free policing principles into all levels of the organization, including comprehensive training of officers and supervisors, which is to be developed with community input.
  • CDP to create a Mental Health Response Advisory Committee and provide all officers with sufficient training to identify and appropriately respond to situations involving individuals in crisis. CDP will develop a plan to ensure these specialized officers are always available to respond to calls related to those in mental-health crisis.
  • CDP to develop a recruiting policy and strategic recruitment plan that includes clear goals, objectives and action steps for attracting qualified applicants from a broad cross-section of the community. CDP will consult with the Community Police Commission and other stakeholders on strategies to attract a diverse pool of applicants.

Justice Investigations

The agreement is enforceable in court, and an independent monitor will track the reforms and report back to a federal judge about CDP's progress. The DOJ recently completed an investigation into the Ferguson, Missouri police department and court system and is set to begin an investigation of Baltimore police. Those investigations follow the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown and the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal injuries while in police custody.

The DOJ has opened investigations into 22 local police departments in the last five years -- more than twice as many as it opened in the five years prior. Police departments in Albuquerque, Detroit, New Orleans, Portland, Ore., and Seattle are currently under consent decrees to implement reform measures.

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