Cleveland city council approved a plan this week to hire an outside company to try and resolve a backlog of citizen complaints against police that's plagued the city for years.
According to city hall, there are 281 unresolved complaints from 2015-2017 filed with the Cleveland's Office of Professional Standards. That office is charged with investigating citizens' complaints against cops.
Now council has approved a plan to hire a Chicago-based consulting firm, Hillard Heintze, to review those complaints to determine which ones have enough evidence to pursue and which ones should be closed. The 30-week contract would pay the company up to $700,000.
For years the OPS and its backlog has been a frustration for the monitoring team put in place as part of the city's consent decree with the Department of Justice. Monitors have used words like "dysfunction" and "disappointment" in its observations before finally writing it had "run out of words to capture the depth and breadth of the progress that needs to be made to cure the current inability of Cleveland residents to have complaints about city employees fairly and fully addressed in a timely manner."
Dr. Ronnie Dunn, an assistant professor at Cleveland State University helped draft the consent decree. He calls the hiring of consultants a necessary step in repairing the relationship between the community and the police department.
"If people don't have confidence that if I have an issue with the police officer, it's going to be thoroughly, transparently investigative, and there will be some level of accountability, that diminishes trust in our law enforcement," Dunn said.