ACLU to investigate RTA pepper spraying incident

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CLEVELAND -  The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is looking into Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority police officer’s response to a confrontation with people who were attending the Black Lives Matter conference Sunday, July 26 at Cleveland State University.

“The use of pepper spray by law enforcement as a means of crowd control is questionable,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link. “No use of force should be applied to groups of people. We will look into this matter further and will review both the RTA’s use of force policy and the actions of the officer. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered about what happened.”

Link adds that the inquiry will try to determine if the RTA has proper policies in place regarding the use of force, if the officer involved used proper procedures and if multiple warnings to disperse were given to and heard by the crowd. The group has requested or will be requesting records from departments involved in the incident, including Greater Cleveland RTA, Cleveland Division of Police, Cleveland State University Police Department, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, the Cuyahoga County Community College (Tri-C) Campus Police, and the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority Police Department.

The RTA released the following statement after the incident:

At 4:40 p.m. today, July 26, Transit Police officers on routine patrol peacefully removed an intoxicated 14-year old male from a bus. Police said the juvenile was intoxicated to the point where he was unable to care for himself.

Police escorted the youth from the bus to a bus shelter on Euclid Avenue at East 24th Street. Transit Police followed normal procedure, which is — after police collect pertinent information, juveniles are transported to police headquarters to await release to a parent or legal guardian.

Within minutes, a large crowd had gathered. For the safety of the juvenile, Transit Police moved him from the open shelter area into a police cruiser. The crowd then surrounded the car, and attempted to remove the juvenile from the car. By this time, several other law enforcement agencies had also responded.

The crowd kept the police car from leaving the area. A Transit Police officer used a general burst of pepper spray in an attempt to push back the crowd, to no avail.

The juvenile was escorted from the police cruiser to a waiting EMS unit to be examined at the scene. He was then released to the custody of his mother at 5:47 p.m.
The incident is under investigation.
RTA will update this statement as more facts become available.

According to RTA, the officer has been placed on administrative duties until the investigation is complete.

Watch Jennifer Jordan's report above for more information on the case as well as video that shows events leading up to the incident.

Continuing coverage on the story here