Proposed Cleveland Police Policy Would Mandate Discipline for Officers Who Do Not Report Force

By Eric Heisig, Cleveland Plain Dealer (Oct. 5, 2016)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A proposed new policy for Cleveland police says officers will face punishment if they do not properly report their own use of force or witness a fellow officer using force.

The proposed policy released Tuesday says officers must call supervisors to the scene of almost all use-of-force instances. They must also write detailed reports so that internal investigators may properly inquire whether the force was justified.

"Officers shall not use conclusory statements, 'boilerplate' or 'canned' language (e.g., furtive movement, fighting stance), without supporting details that are well articulated in the required reports," the proposed new policy says.

Officers who use or observe the use of force and do not report it would face discipline, including possible termination, regardless of whether the force was justified.

The policy proposal is another piece of a comprehensive overhaul of the police department's rules that govern how officers use force. It is required under a settlement the city reached with the U.S. Department of Justice to address how officers use force.

The majority of the proposed policies were unveiled last month, and the team monitoring the department's progress under the settlement held two community meetings to solicit feedback.

A federal judge must approve all of the policies, which are still being looked at by the city, the Justice Department and the monitoring team, before they are implemented. The city's goal is to have the new policies in place by the first of the new year.

A proposed use-of-force policy the Cleveland police monitoring team put forth on Thursday is designed to be a stepping stone on which all other departmental reforms can be built, the head monitor said.

The proposed reporting policy breaks down the seriousness of the force used into three levels.

The first two levels, which range from unholstering a weapon to using a Taser or pepper spray, would require officers who use and observe force to provide a detailed account of what happened leading up to the force. It would require an explanation about what attempts officers made to de-escalate the situation and how a subject resisted.

If a level three use of force is used, which includes deadly force, officers must make the same steps and also comply with any directives from the officer in charge of a team tasked with investigating use of force.

Certain rules are also in place for when an officer uses a Taser or whether a dog from a K-9 unit is used to subdue a suspect.

Those who want to submit feedback on the proposed reporting guidelines — or any other piece of the use-of-force policies — may do so at the monitoring team's website.