What are Cleveland police doing wrong?

Posted at 10:36 PM, Dec 08, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-08 22:36:51-05 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.

A year-long NewsChannel 5 investigation found crisis intervention training was never fully implemented by Cleveland police because it failed to include command level staff and multiple social service agencies.

Nationally recognized experts at the Crisis Intervention Team Center, based in Memphis, Tenn., agree that weaknesses in Cleveland’s program stem from “having become more of a training program—which doesn’t include some of the layers that make CIT successful.”

Sam Cochran is now a consultant with the CIT Center and helped establish the nation’s first training program for police within the Memphis police department more than 20 years ago.

Cochran says training must include command-level staff—something that we found did not happen in Cleveland.

“To what extent is that nurturing happening in other areas of the department?” asks Cochran. “Do front supervisors or all level of supervisors understand the role of CIT?”

Cochran says to be successful, CIT must be more than just 40 hours of classroom training.

To be successful, CIT must be more than just 40 hours of classroom training.

Yet, our investigation found that top levels of the Cleveland police department failed for years to fully adopt the program.

Cleveland Public Safety Director Michael McGrath, who launched CIT training in 2005, admits that he “can’t give a definitive number” when asked how many times he or the department has met with agency that provides CIT training for Cleveland police.

McGrath insists, “it was numerous times”.

Even so, William Denihan, who heads up the Alcohol, Drug & Mental Health Services agency providing training, insists he has met with police “very, very few times.”

Denihan also admits that while he failed to launch the program while he was Chief of Police in the 1990s, “It was not designed to that level of importance as command level high.”

Cleveland’s program pales in comparison to cities like Durham, North Carolina—which implemented the identical training program.

In Durham, CIT trained police have a mental health worker embedded with the department who ensures that mental health services are provide d.

Felicia Jones serves as the department’s mental health contact within the department and often rides with police on the streets.

“Every mental health call for assistance that comes through here,” said Jones, “is followed through” to ensure that services are provided.

Lt. Mark Morais, social worker Felicia Jones and NewsChannel 5 Chief Investigator Ron Regan talk to Kenneth Claitt, a formerly homeless man the team has helped.

The department also has 100 percent of its dispatchers fully CIT trained—something that is not true in Cleveland.

Lt. Mark Morais, a Durham police supervisor, said, “The idea is to follow up with them the next day and later on see what their needs are so the 911 calls stop from that particular person and they can get a more productive member of society.”

Durham police also meet once a month with multiple social service agencies to determine how effectively the CIT program is operating and what needs to be improved.

Since our investigation first began, Cleveland police are now moving forward in dramatic ways to ensure the department’s CIT program operates successfully.