Mayor: Cleveland police accepting of departmental reforms

AP News
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Posted: Dec 09, 2015 5:35 PM
Mayor: Cleveland police accepting of departmental reforms

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland police officers are accepting the reality that an agreement with the U.S. Justice Department will lead to reforms of the troubled department, Mayor Frank Jackson said Wednesday during a briefing about the city's first six-month report on its progress in implementing provisions of a court-monitored consent decree.

Jackson said police officers are embracing some aspects of reform, such as enhanced training, which will help them do their jobs better.

"It's very clear to them now what's expected of them," Jackson said. "We believe things are different because there's an acceptance of the fact there will be reform."

The city and federal government reached an agreement in May after the Justice Department concluded last December after an 18-month investigation that Cleveland officers too often use excessive force and violate people's civil rights.

The report detailed incidents including one in which handcuffed suspects were repeatedly shocked with stun guns and another in which a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire killed two unarmed black suspects after a high-speed chase.

The consent decree calls for increased accountability by police, bias-free policing and improved relationship with residents.

There are a number of institutional changes planned, such as putting a civilian in charge of internal affairs, which addresses a Justice Department criticism that the police department had done a poor job policing itself.

Cleveland is required to issue progress reports every six months while the consent decree remains in effect. A federal judge approved the agreement on June 12. The early stages of implementation mostly involve planning and preparation and establishing organizations such as the Community Policing Commission, which will make recommendations and review efforts by officers to engage the community.

The consent decree will be expensive, Jackson said. The city plans to spend $13 million next year on costs related to implementing reform and as much as $9 million in the following years of what is supposed to be a five-year agreement. Those costs don't include additional spending for deploying more officers and equipment. Jackson said he hopes the money spent will lead to a reduction in crime while adhering to the provisions of the consent decree.

The mayor couldn't say if the relationship between police and residents has improved or whether there's been a reduction in complaints about police during the first six months the decree has been in effect. But in meetings with community groups and activists, there's a clear sense that people want to be involved in reforming the department.

"People are talking about, 'How do we make this work,'" Jackson said.