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East Cleveland councilwoman calls for FBI investigation after more indictments

Posted at 5:11 PM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 18:32:15-04

EAST CLEVELAND, OH — An East Cleveland city councilwoman called for an FBI investigation into the city's police department following the indictments of two former police officers Friday.

Officers Alfonzo Cole and Willie Sims were charged with robbing victims during traffic stops while the two were on-duty and on patrol between July 2020 and July 2021 when the pair was first arrested.

Investigators said the pair combined to steal nearly $15,000 in cash, drugs and two guns.

They were fired this week after spending more than a year on unpaid administrative leave.

Friday's indictments marked seven past and current East Cleveland police officers hit with criminal charges in the last three weeks, including Police Chief Scott Gardner.

"It's hard to keep track of all of the allegations," said City Councilperson Patricia Blochowiak.

Blochowiak said she's heard about problems with East Cleveland's police department since she moved to the city.

"21 years of hearing about problems and now, finally, in 2022 we are getting indictments," said Blochowiak.

But critics of the department believe the indictments are just the beginning and are calling for more accountability for what they call a culture of unconstitutional policing.

RELATED: East Cleveland residents call for police response examination after Labor Day multiple shooting

"I think the time has come that everyone be held accountable," said activist Mariah Crenshaw.

Blochowiak believes that requires a full investigation of East Cleveland by the FBI.

She said it's the only way to get to the bottom of what's going on inside a department that she said is losing public confidence.

"The mayor knows prosecutors, the mayor knows the police, the mayor knows he has those connections," said Blochowiak. "How can we expect him to be fair and unbiased? We need outside help."

To put the seven indictments into perspective, East Cleveland's entire police department is only about 45 officers.

Mayor Brandon King has not responded to a request for comment on this story.