CLEVELAND, OH – The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio sent a letter to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine yesterday, asking him to appoint a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation of a November 29 police pursuit that culminated in 13 Cleveland police officers firing 137 shots and killing two people. The letter also asks DeWine to remove two agencies from the investigation because they were involved in the incident being probed.
Last week, it was announced that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Department, and the East Cleveland Police Department would begin a joint investigation into the November 29 incident, with the results going to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty. Because Sherriff’s deputies and East Cleveland police were involved in the vehicle pursuit that preceded the shooting, the ACLU is calling on DeWine to remove them from the investigation along with McGinty, whose role should be filled by a special prosecutor who has no ties to northeast Ohio or the agencies being investigated.
“This is not an indictment of the people or agencies currently assigned to the investigation. However, putting local law enforcement in charge of investigating themselves is clearly not the best way to conduct an impartial, independent inquiry,” said ACLU of Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman. “Nor is it a good idea to ask a prosecutor that works with these local agencies everyday to review the results of this investigation.”
“Removing all agencies who were involved in this incident from the inquiry and appointing a special prosecutor gives the investigation the weight it deserves,” added Hardiman. “Anything less runs the risk of doing further damage to the already strained relationship between the community and law enforcement.”
This would not be the first time that bloodshed prompted the appointment of a special prosecutor in Cleveland. In 2006, Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson appointed retired Judge C. Ellen Connally as a special prosecutor to investigate five cases that resulted in fatalities, including the shooting death of 15-year-old Brandon McCloud
“This most recent shooting is only the latest in a long line of incidents in Cuyahoga County that have tested people’s faith in their public servants,” said Hardiman. “In this climate, it is crucial that any investigation into the conduct of the Cleveland Police Department avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”