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CLE PD gets consent decree lesson from Detroit

Posted: 10:29 PM, Dec 08, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-08 22:29:09-05

newsnet5.com and NewsChannel 5 have spent a year investigating the Cleveland Division of Police. “Road to Reform” — an hour-long documentary and this accompanying web series — is the culmination of that investigation.

Cleveland Police is just starting the long federal consent decree process, and it's clear CPD can take a lesson or two from Detroit police as to what should be expected.

Detroit Police is in the final chapter of its consent decree, an effort that is now into year 12, reportedly costing more than $100 million dollars.

newsnet5.com spent two full days in Detroit, riding along with police Sgt. Al Ruiz, who is also one of Detroit's top community policing officers.

Federal oversight had a big impact on the force, Ruiz said, especially in the beginning. Ruiz said training for all officers has doubled, and all officers are now required to wear body microphones.

I'm sitting there defending myself, and I remember thinking consent decree, consent decree. It made me hesitate, and I swore I would never hesitate again.

"Me and my partner are pulling up, right as the consent decree first started, and we see people coming our of this doorway here," explained Ruiz.

"They had broke in, the place was closed. They broke in. So we started to chase them. I catch the guy, and I remember him trying to punch me, and I'm sitting there defending myself, and I remember thinking consent decree, consent decree. It made me hesitate, and I swore I would never hesitate again." 

"But I remember thinking that I was going to get in trouble for doing my job."

Detroit Police Chief James Craig reports there has been a significant drop in fatal police shootings, down to just 17 in the past 5 years.

Craig told newsnet5.com there have been big improvements in police community relations because of the consent decree process, but he admitted there's always concern about regression.

"The cultural magnetic draw that drives a police department back into the way business has already been done," said Craig. "You've got to continue to hold people accountable."

However, Ron Scott with the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality explained the Detroit Police Department still has a long way to go.

Scott claims officers continue to use racial slurs, excessive force and illegal search and seizure.

"We're getting a number of people being stopped in cars for various reasons, and police are running up to people and saying, "Where are the drugs, where are the guns, are you in a gang?" said Scott.

Scott confirmed the Detroit Police Commission still receives more than 1,300 citizen complaints about the Detroit Police Department every year.

Still Ruiz maintains there have been big changes, and has some advice for Cleveland police officers as they start the process. Ruiz said the best thing Cleveland leaders can do is to keep officers informed as to what they should expect along the way, and reduce the number of surprises.

"I'm not going to lie to these officers in Cleveland. It's going to be tough, it's going to be tough,' said Ruiz.

"It was tough for us, but at the end of the day, I'm glad it's over with, and there is some, a lot of improvements made in the Detroit Police Department. So all I can say is, Cleveland, hang in there."