U.S. Attorney determined to get a deal on changing Cleveland policing sooner rather than later

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CLEVELAND - U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach tells the FOX 8 I-Team that he is determined to get a deal on how to change policing in Cleveland that is complete and that gets put into place fairly soon.

"We do feel a sense of urgency to get a comprehensive agreement in this case quickly," Dettelbach said during a sit-down interview that he agreed to do with the I-Team.

In December, Dettelbach stood along side U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder as the Department of Justice announced that its sweeping investigation had concluded that Cleveland's Division of Police engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Calvin Williams also attended that news conference.

The city and the DOJ agreed to start a series of meetings with the goal of coming up with a consent decree - an agreement for how to change policing in Cleveland that would ultimately be overseen by a federal judge.

Since then, the DOJ and the Jackson administration have used different language to talk about what's ahead - language that suggests there may be something of a disconnect between the two.

Mayor Jackson speaks of the DOJ's report as containing "allegations" that need to be discussed and shown to be true before decisions can be made on what changes are needed in how Cleveland's police force operates.

Speaking of the DOJ's report at a December press briefing, the Mayor said: "If the question is, 'would I believe all of what they said is true?', yeah, I'd be shocked...."

But, to U.S. Attorney Dettelbach, the report contains findings of fact, and the only questions now are how to implement changes

"A lot of hard work went into this investigation," Dettelbach says, "thousands and thousands of hours."

"We want to work with the Mayor and the city," he continues, "to come up with a comprehensive agreement in this case...that is preferable to do (rather) than to have a lengthy litigation in court. We'll do that, if that's what it takes."

Mayor Jackson says, in the end, he believes there will be a consent decree with an outside monitor who will report to a federal judge.

"I'm confident that we will get a consent decree," the Mayor says, "and...they'll make some recommendations that we will agree on, even if we don't like them."

Implementing any agreement would fall in large part to Chief Williams.

In his first sit-down interview as Chief, conducted last March, Williams said in part that he hoped within six months to "bridge that gap with the community."

He also responded "sure" when asked if he would be willing to do a follow-up interview in six months.

While we're told the Chief is willing to do that interview, he has not been made available for it despite repeated requests.

Meantime, U.S. Attorney Dettelbach wants to see any agreement soon to address the use of excessive force by police outlined in detail in the DOJ's report.

"Quite frankly, as we told the Mayor," he says, "we didn't view this, unfortunately, as a close call."