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INTERNAL AUDIT: RTA use of pepper spray valid

Posted: 10:21 PM, Sep 15, 2015
Updated: 2015-09-15 22:21:11-04

RTA officials released findings of an internal investigation into an incident in which an officer used pepper spray on a crowd of protesters back in July.

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Sgt. Robert Schwab, a 25-year veteran of the force, pepper sprayed a crowd of protesters the evening of July 26.

The protesters were gathered near East 24th Street and Euclid Avenue, where an intoxicated 14-year-old African-American boy was arrested.

VIDEO: RTA officer uses pepper spray on protesters near Cleveland State University

Protesters at the time told newsnet5.com they were angry with how RTA officers handled the arrest and claimed the officers roughed up the teen.

Video shot by a protester showing Schwab pepper spraying the crowd went viral and was featured on national news sources.

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The incident led to the internal investigation, which determined Schwab followed the proper rules and regulations in regards to the circumstances.

The RTA audit states:

  • Their officers handled the arrest of the teen properly
  • The use of pepper spray was proper
  • The use of pepper spray was consistent with RTA policy and procedure
  • RTA’s pepper spray guidelines are compliant with state and local laws
  • RTA officer training is appropriate

Furthermore, the audit states Schwab and the other officers involved do not warrant discipline.

While RTA claims their pepper spray guidelines are equivalent to peer law enforcement agencies, a NewsChannel 5 Investigation found  their policy gives little guidance compared to other Northeast Ohio departments.

For instance, RTA's policy is only one-third of a page long and consists of two guidelines for when to use pepper spray.

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It  declares pepper spray can be used when "soft empty hand techniques have proven ineffective or under the circumstances are not practical" and "to prevent the use of an impact weapon."

In comparison, Westlake Police has a policy that is six pages long and lists when an officer can use pepper spray on a subject.

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