Apr 25, 2024 - News

Cleveland police reform is "running in place"

Photo illustration of a Cleveland Police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Angelo Merendino/Getty Images

The monitoring team responsible for overseeing the consent decree — the settlement agreement between the Department of Justice and the Cleveland Division of Police — slammed the City of Cleveland in its latest semiannual report.

Why it matters: Police made no progress in the final six months of 2023, after improving compliance in at least a dozen areas in the previous reporting period.

  • Monitor Karl Racine directed the brunt of his criticism not at police, but at city leadership, who, he argued, improperly denied the monitoring team access to data and information crucial to their work.

What they're saying: "By any measure, this static performance — akin to running in place — is insufficient," wrote Racine.

  • "This is especially so given the urgency that the Cleveland community understandably demands."

Catch up quick: Cleveland police have been under a consent decree since 2015, when the Justice Department found that officers had engaged in a "pattern and practice" of unconstitutional policing.

  • The division must meet compliance in a number of areas — including use of force, crisis intervention, community policing, accountability and oversight — before the consent decree is lifted.

The other side: City spokesperson Tyler Sinclair tells Axios that the administration "strongly disagrees" with the monitor's assessment and that allegations of unwarranted delays and limited database access were "patently false."

  • "The City made our intentions VERY clear in that we wanted to provide [the monitoring team] with unredacted access to all records and tried to resolve this issue by requesting that we jointly approach the court," Sinclair wrote in an email.

The latest: At a hearing Monday, city officials told Judge Solomon Oliver that they believe providing unredacted records could break federal law.

Inside the room: At a community meeting Tuesday evening, Cleveland residents — including Samaria Rice, the mother of Tamir, who was shot and killed by police in 2014 — noted that it has been nine years since the five-year consent decree was put into effect.

  • "I don't know how you can say [CDP] is committed to earning trust," Rice said. "If they were, they would be in compliance."

What's next: Police have made demonstrable progress in multiple areas, including use of force and crisis intervention, and the monitoring team said it intends to begin its final assessment of those areas later this year.

The bottom line: "Simply put, this city can and should do much better," Racine wrote. "The residents of Cleveland deserve no less."

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