In March 2013, following a series of highly-publicized use-of-force incidents involving the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP), the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) opened an investigation pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, that focused on the CDP's use of force, including deadly force. This was the second investigation conducted by the DOJ into the CDP's practices in a little over ten years, as the DOJ had previously reached a memorandum of agreement with the City in 2004. (That investigation can be found at PN-OH-0007
in this Clearinghouse.) On December 4, 2014, the DOJ issued a findings letter revealing that the CDP was engaged in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, the DOJ claimed that structural deficiencies and practices, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community, contributed to the CDP's use of excessive force.
As an initial step to address these findings, the DOJ and the City of Cleveland signed a statement of principles committing to developing a court-enforceable consent decree. On May 25, 2015, after the City agreed to the finalized terms of the consent decree, the DOJ filed the complaint for this action along with a joint motion for entry of the agreed upon consent decree.
The consent decree outlined a series of reforms that the City of Cleveland and CDP would undertake:
- Establish a Community Police Commission and District Police Committees, made up of community members, to increase community engagement and build trust.
- Develop and implement a community and problem-oriented policing model.
- Develop a bias-free policing policy and develop training to promote bias-free policing.
- Revise, develop, and implement force policies, training, supervision, and accountability systems to ensure that force is lawfully used.
- Ensure that investigatory stops, searches, and arrests were conducted lawfully.
- Ensure that allegations of officer misconduct were adequately investigated and that officers who committed misconduct were held accountable through the establishment of the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Police Review Board.
The parties agreed that a monitor would be appointed by the court to implement the consent decree. The parties also agreed that the consent decree would be terminated once the city was in "substantial and effective compliance" with the search and seizure provisions for one year and with all other provisions for two years.
On June 12, 2015, U.S. District Judge Simon Oliver, Jr. granted the motion for entry of the consent decree, finding that the settlement was "fair, reasonable, and adequate."
On June 29, 2015, various groups including the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP; the Collaborative for a Safe, Fair, and Just Cleveland; and the Ohio Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild moved to file amicus briefs in this action. The parties opposed the motions, indicating that there was no need for amicus assistance at this time, and that the focus should be directed at implementation of the consent decree. In addition, the DOJ noted that community groups were accorded a substantial opportunity to be heard on issues governed by the consent decree. On October 6, U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. denied the motion, reiterating that the consent decree was sufficient and noting that these groups had other, more appropriate methods to communicate their views regarding implementation of the consent decree.
On October 1, 2015, the parties jointly moved to appoint the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC) as the independent monitor for the implementation of the consent decree. Judge Oliver granted the order.
On December 1, 2015, the parties jointly moved to modify the consent decree to adjust the deadline for the Community Police Commission's recommendations and to fix a typographical error. Judge Oliver granted this motion on December 8. On December 9, 2015, the defendants filed their first status report, which discussed the steps taken in response to the consent decree. In addition to appointing a monitor, the defendants had appointed a community police commission and created district policing committees, and an office of professional standards and police review board. The defendants had also implemented crisis intervention training, and made changes to recruitment and hiring of police officers.
The status report stated that the CDP would continue to work toward adopting all of the reforms addressed in the consent decree and correct any problems though the City was presently addressing the temporary restraining order entered by the Court of Common Please that delayed the start of training the new recruit class.
On February 1, 2016, the monitor filed its proposed first-year monitoring plan with the court. Judge Oliver approved the plan on February 4.
On February 16, 2016, the parties again jointly moved to modify certain deadlines in the consent decree. Judge Oliver granted this motion on February 22.
In June 2016, the defendants filed their second status report. This report discussed the CDP's move to community and problem- oriented policing, which was codified in a new mission statement. It also mentioned the implementation of new polices and training in areas such as use of force and crisis intervention, as well as new equipment and resources to assist the CDP to fulfill its mission and satisfy the requirements of the consent decree.
This status report also addressed issued raised by the monitor in a semiannual report about the Office of Professional Standards ("OPS"). The monitor was concerned about the efficiency of the office, especially pertaining to the small number of cases that were investigated. The defendants explained in their status report that they would continue to work closely with the monitor and the DOJ to address and resolve these concerns.
Implementation of the consent decree is ongoing.John He - 03/03/2016
Saeeda Joseph-Charles - 10/30/2016