Cleveland Police Consent Decree Monitor Finds Progress And Needs
The Cleveland Police Monitoring Team that is overseeing the consent decree with the Department of Justice says the city and its Division of Police “have come a long way.” The team produced its fifth semi-annual report Wednesday.
Monitor Matthew Barge and his team finds that Cleveland made “notable and significant progress in a number of critical areas, including, first and foremost,” the use of force by police officers. Use of force incidents were down almost 40 percent “over the first five months of 2018 as compared to the same period in 2017.”
The monitor commended the department for the improvements and called its new crisis intervention policy for dealing with mentally ill people “some of the strongest and most forward-thinking of any in the country.”
But more needs to be done.
The report says the city needs to activate a Force Investigation Team to scrutinize use of force incidents, and it says police need a disciplinary system that is “fair, thorough, and timely.”
It also notes that the Office of Professional Standards had a backlog of 377 civilian complaints to investigate. 281 were turned over to a Chicago-based company, Hillard Heintze, to scrutinize.
The monitor did not get into details about the disarray at the Community Police Commission after three workers filed lawsuits against the director, alleging sexual harassment and creating a hostile work environment. Four employees resigned this spring.
The report said the Commission must find a way to “resolve internal disagreements” so it can promote public trust and confidence in the Cleveland Police Department.
Attitudes toward the police are improving. A phone survey of 1000 randomly selected Clevelanders conducted in June found that 62 percent had a positive opinion of the force, up from 55 percent in 2016.
However, a racial gap still exists when it comes to public perceptions of police, with 79 percent of white Clevelanders rating the police positively but just 49 percent of African American adults rating the Division of Police positively.
The monitor noted that Cleveland must meet all the requirements of the consent decree for two years before it can be released from the agreement. With two years to go until its targeted completion date, the decree will need to be extended.
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