The Cleveland City Council have promised a listening session around the City to talk about the Justice Department report issued two weeks ago regarding Cleveland Police Department. If last night was any indication, they need to be prepared for a great deal of anger and a lot of pent up frustration. I attended the Justice Department listening session led by US Attorney Steven Dettelbach at Mt. Olive Baptist Church in the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood.
Maybe it was not the best idea to have this discussion so close to Imperial Avenue where police neglect of a community became painfully clear. Or that there were relatives of Tamir Rice sitting in the audience and frustrated that this report does not address the injustice that happened at Cudell Recreation Center. Or maybe to hold a meeting so close to the time of the weekend March on Washington with many from Cleveland having attended and were empowered by hundreds of thousands marching. It seemed to me that no one has given residents of Cleveland the chance to talk about the police for a very long time, and this report opened the flood gates.
There were so many people who wanted to ask questions that we never got to a discussion about remedies or solutions. Dettelbach has promised to come back to talk about the components of the agreement. There was a question that came up about why the 2002 agreement was not successful. The last agreement was voluntary, had a limited time horizon (1 year) and did not have an outside monitor was the reason that it did not work according to the current US Attorney. Some of the highlights or lowlights from the discussion was that the CPD were using force including striking people with their guns as a form of punishment. There was a great deal of discussion about racial profiling by uniformed officers. Many in the audience felt that police were guilty of crimes up to and including the murder of a number of citizens. There was a large amount of criticism of the Fourth Police District especially the Vice Squad at the meeting.
Dettelbach had a Justice Department employee discuss the agreements in other cities especially Seattle with their police as an example of what could happen here. The Seattle agreement does not expire until the City can prove that it is free of all of these constitutional violations for two years, but in a larger sense there will have to be a permanent change. The Justice Department is requiring changes in the law that will last longer than the agreement. For example, an elected and appointed independent civilian review board must be created in law to oversee police policy and use of deadly force.
NEOCH and homeless people are concerned since this entire Justice Department involvement started when Cleveland Police killed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, two homeless people, over the Thanksgiving weekend in 2012. The Homeless Congress talked about the report and has made some recommendations that we will be discussing more fully in the future.
- Appointing liaisons to the homeless/domestic violence community from each of the districts who will receive additional training.
- Asking that the officers working private security (esp. at the shelters) not be allowed to wear their badge and uniform from the City of Cleveland. This creates confusion and mistrust of the officers.
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