Video above: (Source: CBS News)
Today, Attorney General Eric Holder made an announcement that the Justice Department’s civil rights investigation into the Cleveland Division of Police has found a pattern of unnecessary and unreasonable use of force. Together, they have issued a statement where they are committed to develop a court-enforceable consent decree.
The investigation was launched in March of last year, designed to review the use of force practices carried out by the Cleveland Division of Police. Following several high profile cases, such as the Michael Brown death, there has been questioning on whether there was reason to use unnecessary force. There has been major controversy on this issue and the legality of it.
General Holder stated, “There are real, practical and concrete measures that can be taken to ensure not only that police services are delivered in a constitutional manner, but that promote public safety, officer safety, confidence and collaboration, transparency, and legitimacy.” The investigation provided an in-depth review of thousands of pages of documents, including written policies, procedures, training materials, internal reports, video footage and investigative files. In addition to speaking hundreds of local community members, department attorneys also held interviews with officers, command staff, and city officials. Ultimately, the investigation found that there are valid reasons to believe that Cleveland police officers have been engaging in a consistent pattern of unreasonable, and often times unnecessary force, which violates the Fourth Amendment.
These practices include:
1. The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons
2. The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force including Tasers, chemical spray and fists
3. Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check
4. The employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable
After finding the above practices of conduct unconstitutional, the investigation reviewed the leading causes and developed several recommendations for remedial action. It was also concluded that Cleveland officers are not up to par with sufficient training, policy guidance, support, and supervision. The department found that the division fails to do six key things: adequately review and investigate officers’ uses of force; fully and objectively investigate all allegations of misconduct; identify and respond to patterns of at-risk behavior; provide its officers with the support, training, supervision, and equipment needed to allow them to do their jobs safely and effectively; adopt and enforce appropriate policies; and to implement effective community policing strategies.
Along with these findings, the investigation also showed that the pattern of unwarranted force has corroded the public’s confidence and trust in the police. Public safety is currently suffering and delivering police services has become far more hazardous. The Department of Justice also voiced its concerns to the city and has begun to execute a number of corrective measures. General Eric Holder, Acting Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta and U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach are hosting a meeting with community leaders and both law enforcement and elected officials to discuss methods to improve their working relationship and address challenges identified this afternoon.