Justice Department Finds A ‘Pattern’ Of Excessive Force In Cleveland Police Department

A Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the policing practices of the Cleveland Police Department has found that the Department engages in a “pattern” of the use of excessive force, NPR is reporting.

The investigation was ongoing at the time of the fatal shooting of unarmed 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police and is not directly related to his shooting.

Reviewing some 600 incidents in which the Cleveland police used force on suspects between 2010 and 2013, the DOJ’s report points out some alarming concerns within the Cleveland Police Department.

  • Police used stun guns (Tasers) and pepper spray first, instead of trying to de-escalate the situation before using force.
  • Police punched handcuffed suspects as “punishment” for failing to comply with officer demands.
  • Police fired guns at people who posed no immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or others.”

Further, said Attorney General Eric Holder, via CNN, DOJ report found that the general public in Cleveland has been led to distrust the police because of their practices.

“Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments, and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve.”

Throughout the DOJ investigation, the report says, the Cleveland Police Department has been cooperative, and open to suggestions.

“Throughout the investigation, the Department of Justice provided its observations and concerns to the city, and in response, the division has begun to implement a number of remedial measures, however, much more work is needed.”

Cleveland is not the first city to have its police force investigated – and found to be lacking in proper training, procedures, and accountability when it comes to excessive force – by the DOJ. In April of this year, a similar DOJ investigation into Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Police Department also found patterns of excessive force and lack of proper police training and accountability measures.

The City of Cleveland has agreed to a monitor, to be appointed by the DOJ, to oversee the city’s police training.

“Together, we can build confidence in the division that will ensure compliance with the Constitution, improve public safety and make the job of delivering police services safer and more effective.”

As of this post, the DOJ is currently conducting 20 other investigations into police departments across the country besides Cleveland, including New Orleans, Seattle, Portland, and Warren, Ohio.

[Image courtesy of: Time]