CLEVELAND — It was a question on the minds of many during the first in a series of 10-panel discussions put together by the Cleveland NAACP and the United Way of Greater Cleveland. Is the Cleveland Police Department making significant progress in improving use-of-force issues and community involvement, as it moves closer to its sixth year under a federal consent decree?
The Jan. 27 virtual on-line forum was part of a community conversation series and had more than 200 people logged-in for the web streaming live event, including; Hassan Aden, Monitor, Cleveland Police Monitoring Team; Jason Goodrick, Executive Director, Cleveland Community Police Commission; Danielle Sydnor, president of the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP and Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams.
The federal consent decree was put in place in May of 2015 after an 18-month U.S. Department of Justice investigation found CPD officers engaged in a "pattern and practice of excessive force."
Chief Williams took questions from the public during the panel discussion and said his police department has made significant improvements over the first five years of the consent decree.
“I do believe there has been substantial improvements to the way we do business here as a police agency here in the City of Cleveland," Williams said. "Our uses of force are down, our uses of deadly force are down, our complaints are down, and our injuries to both our officers and citizens are down.”
But Sydnor said more needs to be done, that there are still too many use-of-force issues, citing police response problems during the May 30 violence that struck downtown Cleveland during the George Floyd protests
"We as a community don’t see that this has gone far enough, and the complaints that we still receive to our office, the number of incidents that have taken place in the City of Cleveland since the decree took place," Sydnor said. "While we are seeing incremental reform, and we absolutely do see that some policies have changed, we still as a community believe that we still need to see more reform.”
Jason Goodrick, executive director with Cleveland Community Police Commission, said while Cleveland police data collection has improved, the department still needs to be more transparent.
"What is the level of transparency for the future for the citizens of Cleveland," Goodrick said.
“They have blocked, or flat out denied some of the important requests from the Cleveland Community Police Commission when it comes to data and access to data," he said.
Case Western Reserve University law professor and Cleveland Community Police Commission co-Chairman Lewis Katz told News 5 more significant progress is needed and said unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic did slow things down.
“The progress has been mostly on paper," Katz said. “While the policies might be better, I think the implementation has been very slow.”
Meanwhile, consent decree court-appointed federal monitor Hassan Aden agreed more Cleveland police data transparency is needed but said the department is making crucial progress.
“Most definitely there has been an increase in accountability," Aden said. "Both from the investigations that internal affairs does and the office of professional standards.”
Its progress even Chief Williams agreed must continue.
“We’re not done yet, there is work to be done," Williams said. "So for the folks who say they haven’t seen enough, I haven’t seen enough either.”