Open Government Press Release

08.24.15

RTA Falls Short in Transparency, Policies, Officer Training, Says ACLU

Media Statement
Top of police car – red lights

CLEVELAND—Christine Link, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, provided the following statement regarding the organization’s investigation of a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority officer’s use of pepper spray against a crowd at the Movement for Black Lives Convening on July 26.

“The ACLU stands by its concerns the Greater Cleveland’s Regional Transit Authority does not have any policies to provide guidance for controlling unruly gatherings nor provides adequate training to its officers.

“One, in response to our public records request on this incident, the RTA stated that it had no policies and written procedures in place to guide officers in crowd control. Two, the RTA also didn’t submit any documentation that it provided crowd control training for its officers. Our records request and RTA’s letter and furnished documents are readily available on our website for review.

“Additionally, it bears repeating that Sgt. Schwab discharged pepper spray widely into the crowd, even hitting other officers on the scene. As is seen in the video, the indiscriminate use of pepper spray did nothing but agitate and swell the crowd. This action was born out of a lack of official policies and adequate training on how to handle these tense situations.

“All police forces, including RTA’s, must have policies and procedures in place that establish expectations of behavior and support training. Officers then should undergo specialized programs designed to teach them to choose de-escalation over force whenever possible. It’s important to stress that training should not be a one-time occurrence. To be effective, training needs to be consistent and on-going to keep our officers and members of the public safe.”

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