NewsLocal NewsCleveland Metro

Actions

CWRU, University Circle police departments could be expanded into Little Italy

little italy 1.jpg
Posted at 5:48 PM, Apr 13, 2022

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland City Council’s Safety Committee temporarily held back two ordinances that would expand the jurisdictions of the University Circle Police Department and Case Western Reserve University Police Department into parts of Little Italy and surrounding neighborhoods. Although the legislation has the support of Cleveland’s Division of Public Safety and neighborhood residents, Councilman Mike Polensek said the legislation will be delayed in order to draft possible amendments to the legislation, which may include a requirement that the ancillary police departments provide quarterly updates on crime data and calls for service. Additionally, Polensek said he wants to explore the future possibility of requiring ancillary departments to have body cameras.

The two separate but related pieces of legislation would bring a significant expansion to the territories served by Case Western and University Circle police forces by including much of the Little Italy neighborhood as well as areas that feature a high concentration of students and staff.

LITTLE ITALY POLICE BOUNDARY.png
UC POLICE BOUNDARY PROPOSAL.png

While initially having the support of Ward 8 Councilman Kevin Conwell, the legislation was previously held back at Conwell’s request so more neighborhood input could be collected. Conwell told the committee Wednesday morning that the proposals have the support of the neighborhood.

“They have held several meetings in the community over there. The residents, guess what? They want this,” Conwell said. “We have been having some spirited conversations and they’ve been out there talking with the residents. The residents want it.”

The legislation comes three months after a rash of carjackings and shooting of a Case Western graduate student in the Little Italy neighborhood. According to a Cleveland police report, the woman was standing outside her car preparing to remove some groceries when an unknown male approached her, demanded her keys, and brandished a gun. The male fired his weapon, and she was struck twice—once in the ribs and once in the leg.

A 14-year-old boy was arrested in connection with that incident.

“Do I feel safe here? I think during the early hours of the day, I do feel safe. But at night, I don’t go out usually,” said Ivette Norrega, a resident of Little Italy. “I think [more police patrols] be a good thing, especially because there are a lot of students that live here. Sometimes they are out late at night coming back from the library or taking classes.”

little italy 2.jpg

Case Western police and University Circle police have a combined budgeted staff of about 50 police officers, all of whom are certified by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA). Additionally, officials from both University Circle and Case Western said that their respective officers undergo much of the same training as their Cleveland Division of Police counterparts, including de-escalation training and bias-free policing training. Officers from the three departments would all share jurisdiction in Little Italy.

However, the ongoing federal consent decree between the US Department of Justice and the Cleveland Division of Police has the potential to create a double standard, Ward 17 Councilman Charles Slife said.

“I worry about that double standard. I worry about what it does for the morale of our own division of police,” Slife said. “Are we unintentionally creating a system of dual regulations? Cleveland police are having to adhere to federally mandated reforms and practices and orders from the DOJ and the ancillary departments in our city that aren’t having to do so.”

Case Western also does not equip its officers with body cameras, although it has applied for grant funding, officials said.

Ward 8 Councilman and Safety Committee Chairman Mike Polensek said the committee will hold the legislation for two weeks in order to provide time for amendments to be drafted. One of the proposed amendments, Polensek said, would require both police departments to submit quarterly arrest and incident data to City Council at least once a quarter.