Key failures uncovered in Cleveland police

Posted at 11:35 PM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 23:35:30-05 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.

"Help for Tanisha. I just wanted to get help for my daughter.”

Tanisha Anderson's mother Cassandra Johnson remembers the family's calls for help.

“Tanisha was not just my daughter. She was my friend. She was my confidant. She was my world. And it changed my world."

Her daughter was bi-polar and schizophrenic. Family members described her condition in detail to dispatchers.

Officer Scott Aldridge responded.

We obtained the certificate that shows Aldridge was trained how to successfully avoid violent and potentially deadly confrontations.

Instead, police say Anderson began actively resisting and kicking at officers while handcuffed and being placed in the cruiser’s back seat.

A medical examiner report found she died from sudden death associated with physical restraint.

NewsChannel 5 Chief Investigator Ron Regan asked Johnson if she felt help was provided when she called 911 that night.

"No, no. It was not provided in any way. She did not get the help she need."

Tanisha Anderson's death raises serious questions into just how effectively Cleveland's Crisis Intervention Teams function and how it's carried out within the Cleveland police department.

Tanisha Anderson

Crisis Intervention Team training is a nationally recognized program based in Memphis, Tenn. and used by law enforcement agencies across the country.

A major component of CIT training relies on a wide range of community and mental health agencies that police departments meet with on a regular basis to support the program’s success.

But during an exclusive hour-long investigation that aired Wednesday on WEWS-TV, Cleveland Public Safety Director Michael McGrath conceded he “could not honestly say” whether he had ever met with Cleveland’s Executive Director of the (NAMI) National Alliance On Mental Health.

NAMI Executive Director Michael Baskin told that the Cleveland Police Department “does not meet with us at all.”

In addition, former Cleveland Police Chief and Public Safety Director William Denihan admitted that “candidly, this program was brought to me in 1995-96, and I didn’t do it.”

“It was costing overtime,” said Denihan.

Cleveland’s CIT program was eventually implemented in 2004, but both McGrath and Denihan admit that it was never reached the level of implementation that is required for a successful program.

In the case involving Tanisha Anderson, her family called 911 for mental assistance since Anderson was diagnosed as bi-polar and schizophrenic.

Yet, on the night of Nov. 13, 2014, she died “from sudden death associated with being physically restrained” by Cleveland police, according to a medical examiner’s report—even though one of the officers involved had undergone crisis training.

And police records reveal both officers are facing potential discipline for failing to call for ambulance “in a timely fashion” when Anderson “was in need of medical assistance.”

Her family says instead of helping, police “put in a knee” in Anderson’s back and slammed her to the sidewalk.

CIT experts say when training fails, “it puts both police and the mentally at risk.”

Meanwhile, CIT experts based in Memphis, Tennessee say when training fails, “it puts both police and the mentally at risk.”

Sam Cochran founded CIT training with the Memphis Police Department and is a consultant with the CIT Center based at the University of Memphis.

He insists: “CIT is more than just training.”

“There needs to be more interactive engagement with the community and it needs to be real,” says Cochran.

In the year since our investigation first began, Cleveland Police have announced sweeping changes in how crisis intervention training will be implemented.

Meanwhile, William Denihan now heads up the agency that helps provide crisis training for Cleveland Police and said our investigation “is incredibly valuable to show the system as it is today. It’s going to be broke in a number of parts and not even working in some parts.”