Free Speech

ACLU Ohio Takes RTA to Task on Pepper Spraying


The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio recently concluded its investigation of a Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority police officer pepper spraying people who were attending the Movement for Black Lives Convening at Cleveland State University. The incident occurred July 26.

The ACLU found the RTA “does not train its officers to control crowds like the one that swarmed a police car at the end of a Black Lives Matter gathering.” The RTA rejected the findings completely.

The incident happened when an RTA officer took a 14-year-old, ostensibly drunk to the point he couldn’t take care of himself, off a bus near 24th Street. According to an RTA statement, the officer, per procedure, was attempting to transport the youth to a police facility where he would be released to a parent or guardian. The officer resorted to indiscriminately pepper spraying a large group of people, including other officers on the scene in addition to conference attendees who tried to block a police car from transporting the teenager.

“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,” said ACLU of Ohio Executive Director Christine Link in a statement on the investigation’s results. “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.”