September 29, 2016

CLEVELAND—The ACLU of Ohio says the proposed use of force policy released on September 8th by the Cleveland Department of Police is an improvement, but warns that the policy’s success is contingent upon officers’ accountability to it. Revision of the City’s use of force policies was mandated by a settlement entered into by the Department of Justice and the City of Cleveland after a federal investigation found a “pattern and practice of excessive use of force” by Cleveland police. Further policies on reporting, investigations, and training on use of force are forthcoming.

“The new policy is a marked improvement from the past,” said ACLU of Ohio Senior Policy Director Mike Brickner. “The added requirements, that force be both necessary to achieving a lawful goal, and proportional to the level of resistance a person is giving, are crucial. These, in addition to the increased emphasis on de-escalating a situation to avoid the need for force, are in line with recommendations by national experts and best practices from departments around the country.”

In addition to the “necessary” and “proportional” standards, the proposed policy also includes bans on using force as retaliation, using force against someone who is already restrained or in handcuffs, only passively resisting or verbally antagonizing, or exercising their free speech rights. There is also a complete ban on chokeholds, firing warning shots, and shooting at a moving vehicle, as well as a “duty to intervene” provision, requiring officers to step in if they see their colleague using excessive or unnecessary force.

Despite recognizing the many improvements from Cleveland’s old policy, however, the ACLU of Ohio cautions that these heightened standards will be meaningless if they are not properly enforced. “We want to make sure that these aren’t just words on a paper— however great the words are,” said Brickner. “The implementation aspect of this policy is key.  Subsequent policies that guarantee prompt and thorough reporting, investigation, and sanctions for officers who violate this policy must follow, and there must be strict enforcement and implementation.”

Read the proposed use of force policy.

Read the October 5, 2016 letter to Monitor Matthew Barge regarding use of force policies.

Read the October 19, 2016 letter to Monitor Matthew Barge regarding use of force reporting.