Cleveland, DOJ reach comprehensive agreement on changing how police function

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CLEVELAND – The Department of Justice and the city of Cleveland reached a sweeping agreement that holds the promise to fundamentally change policing in Cleveland for the better.

The 105-page agreement comes just two days after a judge found Cleveland Police Officer Michael Brelo not guilty of manslaughter for his role in the deaths of two people at the end of a highly controversial police chase in 2012.

Shortly after that chase, Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson called for the DOJ review that led to Tuesday’s Settlement Agreement.

The new deal may help to ease tensions as the city braces for a grand jury to decide whether to indict an officer in the shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old who was shot to death after an officer mistook his air soft pistol for a real weapon.

“It will define who were are as a people and who we are as a city,” Jackson said, adding the consent decree will be part of Cleveland’s DNA.

In essence, the agreement calls for more training and accountability for officers, and it involves the community in a much deeper way as to how the city’s police division functions. It still must be approved by a federal judge.

It appears to be modeled in many ways on an agreement put in place more than a decade ago in Cincinnati – a “collaborative” approach to policing that was highlighted 16 months ago in a series of I-Team reports. But U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Steven Dettelbach said this document is unique to Cleveland, and based on conversations with Cleveland’s leaders, community members, police officers and police union representatives.

“We have to have a better relationship with our community,” Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said. “This just adds another layer of accountability.”

The new Cleveland agreement is broken down into several categories. Some of the highlights from different categories include:

Use of Force: Training officers to de-escalate situations, and the creation of a Force Review Board. Officers will not be allowed to use head strikes with hard objects unless in a situation where lethal force would be justified.

Accountability and Internal Affairs: Will now be overseen by a civilian.

Search and Seizure: Much more supervision of officers’ searches and arrests. Requires detailed tracking of police stops and use of force – to create a database of who is stopped and why, including that person’s race and ethnicity, as well as their age and gender. This reporting will be required for police stops – and not just police use of force.

Community Input: Requires creation of a Community Police Commission that provides input on police conduct, including what’s known as “bias-free” policing.”

Transparency and Oversight: Creates the office of a civilian Police Inspector General.

Crisis Intervention: Creates a Mental health Response Advisory Committee and ensures officers who are highly trained are called to respond to mental health issues.

Implementation and Termination: The agreement says it is for five years, and can be terminated when a judge says the city has been in substantial compliance on most provisions for two years.

The agreement will be overseen by an independent monitor overseen by a federal judge.

It also calls for better and more modern equipment for officers. Among the changes would be an ability for officers to know in real time what 911 callers told dispatchers. In the Tamir Rice case, the officers did not know that the caller said the gun could be fake – they only had a report of someone at a park with a gun.

The proposed changes will be expensive, and it is not spelled out in the agreement how they will be paid for. Jackson said that was still being assessed.

Read the Department of Justice agreement with city of Cleveland here

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