Our interest in the Cleveland Police Department’s policies and practices kicked into high gear in November 2014, following two deadly force cases that happened within just days of each other.
Anticipating the Justice Department was likely to issue findings into its investigation into Cleveland police and deadly force, the deaths of a 37-year-old mentally ill woman and a 12-year-old boy raised new and even more significant questions about how Cleveland police respond.
As a result, News Director Jeff Harris tasked the investigative unit with uncovering whether significant, prolonged and systemic issues that can contribute to poor training and excessive use of force that existed within the Cleveland Police Department. Identify them, he asked us, and determine whether they were allowed to continue for years.
When the Justice Department released its own findings, it became even more apparent that our investigation required us to go beyond its report to include clear, specific and concrete examples of police abuse, lack of training and failure to discipline officers.
Our investigation relied on multiple open record requests, court documents, 911 calls, police reports, eyewitnesses, family members and interviews with nationally recognized law enforcement experts.
Our reporting also required extensive travel to Detroit, New York City, Memphis and Durham, North Carolina to obtain vital interviews that would provide viewers with both meaningful and impactful reporting.
It is our hope that tonight’s report will prompt constructive and positive change within the Cleveland Division of Police.
In May, Cleveland and the Department of Justice reached a consent agreement that will oversee changes in the police department. That 105-page document changed the rules for use of force, called of an independent monitor to oversee reforms, created a mental health review board to oversee police interaction with the mentally ill and instituted a command-level position to oversee crisis intervention training.
Specifics of that training were announced in October and include: at least eight hours of crisis training for every officer to start, 16 hours of training for new recruits and, in the end, 40 hours of training for every cop on the force.
In October, the DOJ announced that a New York-based non-profit will serve as the independent monitor. Its vice president Matthew Barge and his team have promised to talk to our officers, officials and neighbors as the group institutes the far-reaching consent decree he’s ever seen.
“I’ll be holding the parties to the pledge,” Barge said.