EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — The chief of the embattled East Cleveland police department pledged to "move the department in a positive direction" Thursday. That promise came one day after 11 current and former police officers were indicted for a series of crimes.
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In all, Cuyahoga County grand jurors have indicted 16 current and former East Cleveland police officers in the last seven months for various crimes involving 31 different incidents, according to prosecutors.
"As I stated when appointed chief last October, I will move the department in a positive direction," Chief Brain Gerhard said in a statement Thursday. "I have very good personnel on my staff that will assist me rebuilding the agency."
After suspensions and terminations, Gerhard said there are 26 police officers left in the department with three new officers expected to start Monday.
Despite calls from some council members earlier this week, Cuyahoga County's Sheriff said he had not been asked by either East Cleveland's mayor or the police chief to assist with patrolling the city.
Gerhard said the indictments would not prevent the department "from functioning or adequately protecting the citizens."
But attorney David Nacht said he's hopeful the indictments do have an impact and help change the culture within the department.
Nacht represents Redrick Ward, who has sued East Cleveland after he said officers violated his constitutional rights during an April 2020 traffic stop.
One of those officers, Nicholas Foti, who has since resigned from the department, was among those criminally charged Wednesday.
Foti was indicted on five counts including felonious assault and interfering with civil rights after prosecutors said he stomped Ward's head as he was being held down by other officers.
"It's a tough neighborhood, it's a tough job," said Nacht. "I understand the frustrations and the fear that police officers have. But they're there to protect the citizens even if they're afraid. Even if it's a difficult job. They're not there to beat the heck out of the citizens."