CLEVELAND -Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams confirms to the FOX 8 I-Team that negotiations have begun between the city and the Department of Justice, as the two sides try to reach a consent decree that may significantly change how officers operate and are held accountable.
Meantime, Chief Williams says the police department is moving forward with significant changes alone.
“A total revamping of a community policing model and philosophy of a major police division takes time,” he says.
But that’s exactly what has started to happen, according to Williams.
The Chief is adamant that his division will shift to a policing model that puts its officers in better contact with the community they serve.
His comments came during a lengthy and wide-ranging interview as he marks one year as chief of the division where he has spent 29 years.
In December, the Department of Justice issued a scathing report, saying in part that Cleveland police at times use excessive force in violation of the U.S. Constitution. Cases such as Tamir Rice, Tanisha Anderson and a deadly police chase are all aspects of the report.
“I take issue with a lot of what’s in that report,” the Chief says.
But Williams won’t be specific, in large part because the two sides are now in negotiations over a consent decree.
Williams says he is in those negotiations and thinks “they are going great.”
But while the DOJ sees its findings as basically facts, the Chief, and other city officials, have taken issue with some of what’s in the report.
U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach has said he feels “a sense of urgency” to reach a consent decree soon – and that the DOJ certainly prefers and agreement over the possibility of suing the city in federal court.
Chief Williams says he shares that sense, but quickly adds that the city only has one opportunity “to get this right for the citizens of this city. And I will not sacrifice that to do it expediently.”
Asked if the job weighs on him, Chief Williams says it takes a lot of time, “and my wife is very patient with me. But other than that, the job is all I expected it to be.”
Nothing surprises him?
“No,” he says, “after 29 years, nothing surprises me.”
Read more about the Department of Justice report here**