Criminal Justice

Cleveland Consent Decree: DOJ and City Reach Settlement on Police Reform


A consent decree is a settlement agreement. In 2013-2014, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) and found that many of the police department’s practices were not just bad, but also illegal and unconstitutional. For example, Cleveland police were regularly using too much force on residents, and weren’t properly looking into residents’ complaints of misbehavior. There were many other problems too that the DOJ discusses in its 58-page report.

The DOJ then took the City of Cleveland (which includes the police) to court over their unconstitutional practices, and with the help of a judge, the two of them worked out a settlement agreement, or consent decree. The City of Cleveland agreed to make many changes to its police department – and it had no other choice, considering how bad the problems were that the DOJ found. The consent decree is a 110-page document that outlines all the changes Cleveland must make to its police department.

A complete overview of the timeline, litigation, and resources about the Consent Decree is available.

After five months of negotiations, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the city of Cleveland have reached an agreement to reform the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) in the pattern or practice of using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

The city of Cleveland has agreed to systematic changes in how its police officers and the community interact with one another. Major reforms in the settlement or “consent decree” include:

Creating a Community Police Commission that will promote greater engagement between Cleveland Police Department (CPD) and the many communities within Cleveland.

  • Adopting a comprehensive community policing model to strengthen community partnerships and collaborative problem solving.
  • Revising policies related to search, seizure, and detainment, and enhancing data collection on these interactions to identify incidents of racial profiling.
  • Revising policies on use of force, which will be overseen by the creation of a Force Review Board.
  • Making substantial changes to the Office of Professional Standards and the Police Review Board to ensure that all civilian complaints of police misconduct are thoroughly and effectively investigated.
  • Providing better crisis intervention training to officers.
  • Providing better mental health services and resources for officers.
  • Conducting a comprehensive equipment and resource study to assess current needs and priorities within the CDP.

An independent monitor approved by the federal court will oversee the CDP’s compliance for an initial term of five years.

For more information:

Read the summary of the DOJ-City of Cleveland Consent Decree.

Read the full consent decree. (large pdf)

Find out more about the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation.

Read our statement on the DOJ’s agreement with the City of Cleveland.

Check out our recommendations for Cleveland police reforms.