Cleveland City Council Pushes For More Details On Sex Crime Investigations

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, left, and Commander Michael Connelly address city council on Wednesday.
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, left, and Commander Michael Connelly address city council on Wednesday. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
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At a lengthy safety committee hearing, Cleveland City Council members pressed police officials Wednesday for more details on sexual assault investigations.

This meeting followed a February hearing in which police leaders briefed council on the division’s new staffing plan. Police Chief Calvin Williams has said he aims to staff the sex crimes unit with 23 detectives by next year.

At Wednesday’s meeting, officials said the unit currently has 17 people working cases, but some council members demanded more information. A column in the Plain Dealer Wednesday pointed out that some detectives in the unit weren’t taking on full caseloads.

Commander Michael Connelly, who leads the police special investigations bureau, said there are several new arrivals to the unit.

“Seven of those officers, or detectives, are in training mode,” he said. “So there’s 10 active, seasoned detectives there.”

Three of those seven have just transferred into the unit and are working alongside mentors, Connelly said. The other four have been with the unit for longer, but are being supervised by experienced detectives.

“This body is owed the right information when you guys come to the table, and I can’t stress that enough,” Councilman Mike Polensek told police. “You guys have to be up front with us, with the members of this body, as it pertains to the numbers, whether it be this unit or any other specialized unit.”

Most serious or violent crimes declined in 2018. The exception was rape, which increased for the second year in a row. Overall, the number of cases referred to the sex crimes unit fell last year, according to police officials at the meeting.

Council also heard from experts who work with the survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Sondra Miller, the CEO of the Cleveland Rape Crisis Center, said that reporting sexual assault could be a “brutal” experience for survivors. She said the criminal justice system’s treatment of survivors has improved but not quickly enough.

“We are making progress in the right direction,” Miller said. I think the progress cannot come fast enough. It’s been a pretty slow pace.”

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