Newly-released recordings show Cleveland police were unprepared for May riot

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CLEVELAND (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team uncovered recordings never heard before revealing how Cleveland police were caught off guard by rioting downtown. This comes to light with the threat of more rioting nationwide.

The city released dispatch tapes to the I-Team from rioting last May that went on for hours downtown.

The tapes expose more about how the Cleveland Division of Police was overwhelmed and unprepared. That rioting grew out of the national uproar over George Floyd who died in police custody in Minnesota.

Now, this is getting a new look after rioting in the nation’s capital with growing concern about more trouble in the streets.

In fact, Wednesday, the Cleveland City Council Safety Committee held a hearing about all of this.

“What steps are we gonna take, so this never happens again? How are we gonna protect our citizens?” Councilman Blaine Griffin said.

The tapes show officers finding themselves in desperate situations.

“Need some help up here,” one called out.

“They’re starting to destroy my van and I’m in it,” another said.

“Need pepper spray. They’re taking us over,” one said on radio.

Later, a police supervisor called out for the officers in multiple cars saying, “Their vehicles are burning out of control. They weren’t supposed to be down there in the first place.”

The council members looked back at how things spiraled out of control. And they wondered, now what?

The police chief and the safety director admitted the police department made mistakes that day last May. City hall promised to be ready to protect the city from any more rioting.

The radio tapes also show during the uprising last year, police didn’t have enough officers and they didn’t have enough equipment.

At the hearing, activists and council members also complained police didn’t do enough to protect the rights of people protesting, but not causing trouble.

So, the I-Team asked, “What about preparations for next time?” Cleveland police told us in a statement they are reviewing policies for handling protesting and demonstrations.

To be ready for anything in the coming days, police said they’re working with state and federal authorities to keep you safe.

A deputy chief outlined for council scenarios when police might have officers already on call for a disturbance and when they might already be on the streets in advance of unrest.

While much of the attention lately has been on possible protests tied to national politics, we’ve learned local civil rights activists plan to protest Friday in downtown Cleveland over the U.S. Justice Department not taking action in the case of the Cleveland police deadly shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, a case that already has made national headlines for years.

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