Good police practices, thorough training, carefully crafted policies, appropriate allocation of resources, and strong political and professional leadership can ensure public safety and prevent abuses in encounters between police officers and citizens.
What's Happening in Ohio
Click here for more information on the report
A new ACLU report shows that police departments across the country are expanding their use of automatic license plate readers (ALPR’s) to track the location of American drivers. Unfortunately, few of these departments have any meaningful rules in place to ensure transparency, or protect the privacy of drivers.
When it comes to ALPR guidelines, Ohio is a mixed bag. The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has a good policy, one that requires all license plate records to be deleted immediately if they do not raise any flags. It further specifies that data cannot be collected, stored, or shared for the purpose of data mining. However, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office retains data for 90 days, and public records have not been collected from many other Ohio agencies, making their ALPR policies a mystery.
The OSHP’s ALPR policy proves that law enforcement agencies can still do their jobs while protecting the privacy of innocent people. Ultimately, Ohio needs state legislation that would create similar standards for all law enforcement agencies.
Click here for more information on ALPR’s.
Less than a decade after concluding their last Cleveland police probe, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced that they will return to the city to conduct a new investigation.
The ACLU of Ohio requested this federal investigation after a 2012 incident in which dozens of police cars participated in a three-city police chase. The chase ended with 13 officers firing 137 rounds and killing two unarmed suspects.
DOJ last investigated the Cleveland Police Department in 2000, responding to complaints that city police were routinely violating the constitutional rights of citizens. When this investigation finally closed in 2004, it had uncovered numerous problems and extracted a promise from the department to make changes. Sadly, by the end of the next year, five more police suspects had already died under questionable circumstances.
The problems have continued unabated into this decade. Viewed as a timeline, a sad pattern emerges: a spiral of policy violations, violence, and eventually blood in the streets.
This pattern must be addressed.
On November 29, 2012, dozens of police cars from multiple law enforcement jurisdictions participated in a 26-minute police chase through three northeastern Ohio cities. The chase ended on a dead-end street in East Cleveland, where 13 Cleveland police officers fired at least 137 rounds into one trapped vehicle, killing two unarmed suspects.
In the weeks that followed, there were far more questions than answers.
On February 5, 2013, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine released the results of a state investigation into the shooting, calling the events of that night a “systemic failure” of Cleveland police policies.
Click here to access the AG’s report.
The Cleveland Police Department has recently been criticized for several officers’ prolific use of non-deadly force and for failing to review incident reports fully. This criticism after two officers were charged with assault for beating a man during an arrest.
In addition, the ACLU of Ohio is concerned the Cleveland Police Department may employ some racially biases policing methods. A June 2011 report, “Overcharging, Overspending, Overlooking: Cuyahoga County’s Costly War on Drugs“, describes the targeting of African American communities for patrols and sweeps, resulting in disproportionate rates of arrest and incarceration for people of color.
The ACLU of Ohio also represented two Clevelanders who were victims of racially biased policing in July 2010 in City of Cleveland v. Alvin Williams and City of Cleveland v. Chanel Christian. As a result of the incident, the Mayor agreed to permit federal mediators to provide training to business owners and police to avoid any similar incidents.
Police departments around the state have begun to use web sites like Facebook and MySpace to monitor people’s online profiles and identify individuals whom they believe engage in illegal activities.
Unfortunately, many innocent individuals are wrongfully identified as criminals because police have relied only on flawed profiling techniques rather than generating clear evidence that the person is engaged in illegal activity
The Ohio General Assembly is considering Senate Bill 98, which would allow local police to enforce immigration laws. The ACLU of Ohio opposes such efforts because they encourage racial profiling and causes resources to be diverted from dealing with local crime. More information is available on our Immigrant Rights page.