City Council Members React to Police Chase Review

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CLEVELAND – The day after the police chief announced that 12 department supervisors would face possible punishment for their involvement in a police chase and shooting last year, he had to answer to some members of Cleveland City Council.

“From the very beginning to the very end, it was a train wreck waiting to happen,” said Councilman Mike Polensek.

The November 29 chase started downtown and ended in East Cleveland. It included nearly 100 police officers, 15 supervisors and more than 60 cruisers. But Wednesday’s hearing with Chief Michael McGrath before the Public Safety Committee focused only on the chase. The use of force at the end, when Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were fatally shot, was excluded from the proceedings.

“If there’s something that we need to do within the council, if there’s something that we need to take a look at - if there’s something that we need to tighten up, as it pertains to procedures, requirements, whatever the case may be,’” said Polensek.

Images were shown during the hearing that reveal officers driving erratically during the chase with no regard for public safety, which is a violation of the policy.  It was also revealed that at least one supervisor spoke on the radio only one time during the 22 minute chase, even though procedures require them to oversee and direct officers throughout any chase.

“You saw the presentation, from the beginning of the pursuit, almost to the very end, the Second District supervisors that were responsible had no communications whatsoever with their officers,” said Chief McGrath.

On Tuesday, the chief said 12 supervisors are being singled-out for hearings. Six will have a hearing with the chief and six will face the safety director because he can enforce a stricter punishment. They did not discuss the actual shooting because the county prosecutor is still determining if criminal charges should be filed against any officers.

“There were cars in other districts that did not follow the directions of their supervisors and we will deal with that when we do the review on the patrol officers in the coming months,” said the chief.

There is no timeline from the prosecutor’s office about the results of any pending criminal action.

“I would anticipate that this process will continue,” said Safety Director Martin Flask. “After we’re done with the supervisory officers, the chief will be looking at individual patrol officers and detectives who may have also violated the policies.”

The hearings with the 12 supervisors will get underway the week of May 20.

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