I-Team: Cleveland Police Chief Williams acknowledges problems, sees better days ahead

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CLEVELAND - Almost exactly a year ago, Calvin Williams raised his right hand inside City Hall's Red Room, and swore an oath to become Cleveland's Police Chief.

What a year it has been.

Chief Williams is in the process of trying to change the fundamental model of how his officers police the streets - at the same time he is dealing with fallout from two controversial deaths at the hands of his officers, and a scathing Justice Department report that says Cleveland police have employed excessive force at times in an unconstitutional manner.

Last March, in his first sit-down interview, Chief Williams told the I-Team that he hoped that both the city and his department were "further along" and that his officers were "starting to bridge that gap of trust with the community."

"Well, personally, Bill, I think we are further along," the chief said on Friday, during a lengthy interview in his office.

"We've had some incidents that have happened in this city to lead people to believe we aren't as far along as we need to be - and we aren't," the chief said.

Chief Williams is referring to the tragic deaths of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot and killed by police who mistook his airsoft pistol for a real gun,  and Tanisha Anderson, a mentally ill woman who died after being restrained by Cleveland police.

Calling both deaths "tragedies,"  Williams stressed that, away from the headlines, he sees progress as being made.

"The people who are out there and are receptive know what's happening," he said.

The chief is in the middle of trying to convert Cleveland to a model that's known as "community policing."

He says officers are being told to spend more time on higher priority calls, and he's hoping that more community engagement will lead to more trust between residents and his officers.

He acknowledges that lower priority calls may have to wait longer, but he says the hope is that technology will help people file more reports for minor problems without needing an officer present.

The first Cleveland officers have now received "body cameras" to videotape their encounters on the job.

He says officers need to be properly trained in both community policing and the use of body cameras before they can be held accountable for both.

And he says training is taking place.

"Most people criticize the time factors involved," the chief said, "but real, substantial change that's going to take hold takes time."

**To read more on the Department of Justice report, click here**

**For more on body cameras, click here**

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