No progress with Civilian Police Review Board

Posted at 8:20 PM, Apr 19, 2016

A year and a half after NewsChannel 5 started investigating Cleveland's Civilian Police Review Board and its sister agency for a lack of transparency and apparent inadequacy, we revealed on Tuesday that there was still no progress.

"You need to answer to the people of Cleveland," said NewsChannel 5 Reporter Kristin Volk to Damon Scott, the administrator of the Office of Professional Standards, or OPS. Scott was responsible for making sure the six-member Civilian Police Review Board was transparent and effective.

OPS investigates civilian complaints made against Cleveland police. The review board makes a recommended ruling on those complaints. Their recommendations are forwarded to Cleveland's police chief for a final ruling.

Scott declined yet another interview saying he would only talk privately in his office. The refusal comes after he refused an interview in September of 2015 on the same topic. In December of 2014, NewsChannel 5 confronted both Scott and review board chairman Thomas Jones at a public meeting after they kept pushing off NewsChannel 5's interview requests.

"Part of the reason I was hired was to address some of the cases that were not investigated prior to my tenure," said Scott in December of 2014.

At that time, NewsChannel 5 found that the review board had only ruled on 36 cases out of 441 cases of alleged police misconduct made by citizens in 2014, according to documents posted to the City of Cleveland's website.

"That is something my office is addressing," said Scott in December of 2014.

But in September of 2015, NewsChannel 5 uncovered the same problem. Out of 474 cases listed in 2014, the website indicated that the board had ruled on just 46 of them. No rulings had been made in 2015 at that time, according to the website.

In an unscheduled phone call to Scott in September, he said they were short-staffed yet working hard on cases. The city said Jones would not do an interview.

Fast forward to April of 2016, and NewsChannel 5 once again found no apparent progress, despite promises made. The website still listed the review board ruling on just 46 cases in 2014 out of 474. No rulings were made in 2015. The 2011 annual report for the review board was still displayed. 

After repeated requests for interviews, NewsChannel 5 showed up at the review board's public meeting, as listed on their website. But Scott said the meeting had happened earlier in the day, and Jones was unavailable. The next public meeting may be next month, he said.

In a statement, the City of Cleveland said Tuesday:

"The Office of Professional Standards continues to investigate allegations of police misconduct on an on-going basis and submits findings to the Civilian Police Review Board. In addition, the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) continues to meet deliverables mandated by the city’s settlement agreement with the Justice Department. Recently, OPS has hired two new staff members to help meet these requirements and provide the public with better access to information."

Scott, a city official, made $86,700.00 in 2015. Jones received a stipend of $7,775.00 in 2015 from the city. Review board members also received a stipend of $7,200.00 last year.