Commentary

08.09.17

Cleveland Mayoral and City Council Candidates Must Prioritize Police Reform

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With so many candidates for Cleveland mayor and City Council this year, it can be hard to keep track of all of them. But something you must keep track of is their commitment to police reform in Cleveland.

That’s because Cleveland is in year two of a multi-year police reform process, known as the consent decree, which is overseen by a federal judge after the U.S. Department of Justice found that many of the Cleveland Division of Police’s practices were illegal and unconstitutional. With the Trump administration retreating from efforts for just and constitutional policing, we are left to rely on local leaders to push for high quality and timely reforms.

Visit ClevelandConsentDecree.org to learn more about the Cleveland police reform process.

On April 3, 2017, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo directing the Department of Justice to review all existing police consent decrees, including Cleveland’s, raising the question of whether the Department of Justice will try to completely withdraw from these agreements. The mountains of evidence against the Cleveland Police Department have not changed, but our Attorney General has. Just last month, President Trump told a crowd of law enforcement officers, “Please don’t be too nice,” when taking suspects into custody. This suggestion of violence – toward people not yet convicted of any crime – was not exactly subtle.

With these frightening anti-reform attitudes coming out of Washington D.C., it is more important than ever that the City of Cleveland follow through on its agreement to implement constitutional, community-oriented policing here in our city.

If you stand for police reform, attend a community forum and ask the following questions to candidates for Cleveland Mayor and City Council:

  1. Cleveland is currently two years in to a federally-mandated police reform process, after the Department of Justice found in 2014 that many of the Cleveland Division of Police’s practices were illegal and unconstitutional. How will you keep city officials and the Cleveland Division of Police moving swiftly toward systemic reform?
  2. There have been lots of problems with the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) and the Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB), the city offices charged with investigating and adjudicating civilian complaints of officer misconduct. Namely, there is a three-year backlog of hundreds of complaints that have gone unresolved. How do you plan to provide those offices with enough staffing, resources, and – frankly – pressure to end the backlog and begin to bring back public confidence in Cleveland’s police oversight structures?
  3. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) led the 2014 investigation of the Cleveland Division of Police and mandated it complete comprehensive reforms. However, the DOJ is no longer a reliable partner in the quest for constitutional policing, and in fact may impede it. What would you say to people like Attorney General Jeff Sessions who say that constitutional policing reforms are anti-police or that they “shackle” officers?
  4. In 2014, the federal government investigated our police department and found a whole host of unconstitutional policing practices, including excessive use of force and hundreds of unresolved civilian complaints of police misconduct. Clearly it will take a lot of hard work to regain the trust of Cleveland residents. How high would you rank the implementation of the federal consent decree on your list of priorities?
  5. Currently, the Cleveland Division of Police does not require the use of body cameras by officers engaged in secondary employment – that is, officers working in uniform but off-duty, such as at a grocery store or at the Quicken Loans Arena. Meanwhile, these officers are authorized to carry CDP-issued guns and Tasers, use force, and make arrests. What will you do to require officers to wear body cameras while working secondary employment?

 

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