Cleveland has come a long way over the last decade. We have made great progress in terms of education, positioning for the future, economic development and opportunities, along with improving our image nationally and internationally.
This progress has been overshadowed by recent events, particularly the release of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) report. Cleveland has met and overcome many challenges and we will maintain our focus as we go through the challenges of today. I am aware of the challenges, and I know that we will pull through as we have in the recent past.
As you may know, the City of Cleveland contacted the DOJ in 2012 after the November 29, 2012, East Cleveland incident, where Cleveland Police officers were involved in the use of deadly force, to review the city’s policy governing police use of force.
The City of Cleveland is not opposed to the investigation. We welcome the review and will make any necessary changes. This review gives the City of Cleveland the greatest opportunity to reform and improve practices that are needed in the Division of Police.
The DOJ investigation was completed on December 4, 2014. On December 2, 2014, The City of Cleveland and the DOJ entered into a “Joint Statement of Principles” agreement which states “the parties have agreed to begin negotiations with the intentions of reaching a court-enforceable settlement agreement…..” “As one of its terms will include a provision for an outside independent monitor to ensure continued compliance….”
While in the negotiation period, The City of Cleveland is reviewing the DOJ’s findings to determine which areas the city does or does not agree with. We will enter into a consent decree once those areas are agreed upon. This is a normal part of the negotiating process.
To date, the City of Cleveland and the DOJ have begun negotiations with the purpose of reaching a settlement, as to what will be in the consent decree. Several meetings have been held and others are scheduled.
At the same time, the City of Cleveland is identifying areas that can be changed before the settlement. We are reviewing policies and determining need for change, legislative actions that may be needed, and modifications of collective bargaining provisions.
Although we invited and welcomed the DOJ investigation, the DOJ’s investigation and findings report on police practices does not look far enough into the criminal justice system. The review should be broadened to include the criminal justice system as a whole, to determine if there is disparity, or a pattern of practice of Constitution violation.
The review should include who gets arrested, who gets charged, what they are charged with, who gets indicted, what cases are brought to the grand jury, and what sentences are being imposed in court.
When police officers are involved, the disparity and the risk of a pattern of constitution violation are even greater.
The majority of the men and women who protect and serve our city do so with the highest level of integrity and with each of your best interest at heart. This is no way an indictment on them and I applaud them.
However, I want to be clear, that those officer who are not following the policy, procedures and general police orders, and who do not conduct themselves in a professional manner that our citizens deserve, will be held accountable and, if appropriate, terminated.
As mentioned before, we have the greatest opportunity to change the inadequacies in The Cleveland Police department as well as the criminal justice system. We can rid the system of disparity and pattern of practice of Constitution violation.
Change can only happen if we remove the fog of confusion and the noise of chaos. In order to make our city great, we must secure the constitution privileges of every citizen and Cleveland police officer.