First report on Cleveland police performance under reform plan offers mixed reviews

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CLEVELAND-- The first report on how Cleveland police are performing under a court-supervised reform plan gives mixed reviews - applauding officers, the command staff, and the city for their efforts, but pointing out areas where implementation of needed reforms remains inadequate or unacceptable.

The Cleveland Police Monitoring Team reports to a federal judge, who is ultimately in charge of making sure Cleveland implements the reforms it agreed to last year as part of a deal with the Justice Department.

The reforms are modeled, in part, on reforms that the DOJ helped put in place in Cincinnati after three days of unrest in that city back in 2001.

In Cleveland, the DOJ began investigating shortly after an almost unbelievable police chase in November of 2013 left two unarmed people dead in a hail of 137 bullets.

Two years ago, the I-Team showed how the effectiveness of reforms has transformed policing in Cincinnati - not only helping the community to feel more connected to its police department, but also helping to make the officers feel safer on their jobs.

The first report in Cleveland shows growing pains in making changes - and also allows for the fact that the city's attention has been diverted somewhat because of preparations for next month's Republican National Convention.

Click here to see the complete report

The report applauds efforts made to develop a detailed policy for the Use of Force, saying "there has been tremendous progress towards a core use of force policy that provides clear, specific direction on when force may be used."

Likewise, the report indicates progress is being made in training the officers in everything from use of force to "crisis intervention training."

That training is designed to educate officers on how to deal with people who may be experiencing mental problems.

Separate from this report, Cleveland officers remain under investigation for the death of Tanisha Anderson, a young woman whose death in their custody was ruled a homicide, and who may have been experiencing mental issues.

The Monitor's report says "progress...has been swift" in identifying what are thought to be best practices by police departments nationwide for dealing with these types of issues. The next steps are to provide all officers with eight hours of training in this area, and give 40 hours of enhance training "for specialized crisis intervention officers."

While praising those efforts, the report is devastating in its assessment of the ability of people to complain about the actions of police officers.

In Cincinnati, a key to the community buy-in was the development of a Citizens Review Board that has real power to investigate alleged police misconduct.

Cleveland's counterpart is the Office of Professional Standards, but the report indicates it hardly lives up to its name.

It says cases languish without reaching resolution - 202 cases are still open from 2014, and 225 cases from last year, what the report calls "unacceptable and irresponsible by any measure."

The report says OPS was supposed to file a manual that shows how it operates, but it calls the 14-page draft "deficient in every regard - lacking rigor, containing inaccurate information, failing to address numerous...requirements, and omitting host of material detail."

The report also took Cleveland to task for the state of the equipment it gives to its officers. The report indicates that the equipment is nowhere near adequate, saying "far from insisting that CPD buy a Rolls-Royce, the Monitor will be attempting to ensure that the CPD officers have a reliable, high-functioning overall technology infrastructure that gives the Division and its officers to where it needs to be."

It also cites a woefully inadequate record-keeping system, saying up to 12,000 police reports were not yet entered into the system. It says CPD is addressing that backlog, and its now down to about 7,500.

It also says officers often have to rely on their "own time and dime" to repair cars, or use their own cars or personal phones for police work.

The City of Cleveland released the following statement in response to the report:

"In accordance with the Consent Decree, paragraph 387, "Within 180 days of the effective date, the City will file with the court, with a copy to the Monitor and DOJ, a status report. This report will delineate the steps taken by CPD during the reporting period to comply with this Agreement; CPD's assessment of the status of its progress; plans to correct any problems; and responses to any concerns raised in the Monitor's previous semi-annual report. Following this initial status report, the City will file a status report every six months thereafter while this agreement is effect."

The City said its second-annual report is due by June 13.

The Monitor's office is expected to talk about its report in detail on Friday.

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