Commentary

12.09.14

Vindication: DOJ Report on Cleveland Policing

By

Prison fence

It happened in a blink of an eye.

On November 22, 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot immediately after Cleveland Police officers pulled up to him at Cudell Recreation Center. Tamir’s is the most recent in a series of deaths caused by Cleveland police.

Others include:

  • Tanesha Anderson, slammed to death, November 13, 2014.
  • Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, shot 137 times by police, November 29, 2012.

 

Following the 2012 deaths, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) launched a pattern and practice investigation into the Cleveland Police Department (CPD). After reviewing 600 reports and interviewing hundreds, the DOJ determined that it has “reasonable cause to believe that the CPD engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Among the many deficiencies, they found that the CPD failed to:

  • Investigate officers’ use of force, if at all.
  • Discipline officers for improper use of force.
  • Provide officers proper training.
  • Ensure that officers report or adequately record use of force and reason force was used.

 

It also found that officers:

  • Fired their guns at people who do not pose an immediate threat.
  • Fired their guns in a manner that puts innocent bystanders at risk.
  • Were careless with their weapons.
  • Often escalated situations.
  • Used force that is out of proportion, including punching or using a Taser on people already subdued.
  • Used excessive force on people experiencing a mental health crisis.

 

In summary, the DOJ determined: “CDP’s failure to ensure that its officers do not use excessive force, or are held accountable if they do, interferes with its ability to gain the trust of and work with the communities whose cooperation the Division most needs to enforce the law, ensure officer safety, and prevent crime.”

Read the U.S. DOJ Findings Letter
Read the U.S. DOJ Statement of Principles
Read the Case Summary
Read the Executive Summary Findings Letter (2014, English)
Lea el Resumen Ejecutivo Conclusiones (2014, Español)

The scathing report is vindication for many Clevelanders, specifically men and women of color, people with disabilities, and youth who experienced years of abuse or indifference by police officers.

The reason that people are shouting “black lives matter” is because black people are being shot, choked, and slammed to death by the police, who are not being held accountable.

The reason so many say that the “justice system” really means a “just us system” is because the system only comes down on us, people of color.

The reason that our children are afraid of the police is because officers have shot and killed people in playgrounds and on school grounds. Tamir Rice was killed in a playground. Timothy Russell and Malissa Willams were shot in a school parking lot.

The reason we don’t feel comfortable calling the police when a family member is in crisis is because people with mental illness have been mistreated, and in the case of Tanisha Anderson, killed by police.

The reason many have little faith in the system is that those who are supposed to protect us are not disciplined when they harm us.

The DOJ investigated Cleveland’s policing practices in 2004. This time, the CPD will enter into an agreement with DOJ that will be enforced by the U.S. District Court and a monitor will be assigned to ensure that improvements are made.

Also in response to the shooting deaths of Tamir Rice, John Crawford and the DOJ report, Gov. John Kasich announced the establishment of a statewide taskforce that will improve community and police relations.

We are hopeful for systemic reforms that ensure fairness and justice for all Ohioans.

 

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