Monitor to Submit First-Year Plan for Cleveland Police Reform

Chicago Tribune (Feb. 1, 2016)

The city must devise a new use-of-force policy and have officers trained to implement it by the end of 2016, according to the first-year plan for a consent decree aimed at reforming the troubled Cleveland Police Department.

The monitoring team hired to oversee the consent decree was scheduled to submit the plan to U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. on Monday. Cleveland and the U.S. Justice Department agreed last year to allow the court to oversee police reform after a DOJ investigation concluded that there was a pattern and practice of Cleveland police officers using excessive force and violating people's civil rights.

The first-year plan includes requirements that the city create policies and programs to address those concerns, including the development of a "comprehensive and integrated community and problem-oriented policing model." A key element of the consent decree is the fostering of better relationships between police officers and the communities they serve. The consent decree requires officers to do their jobs free of bias and prejudice.

Matthew Barge, who heads the monitoring team that reports to Oliver, said the plan was devised with the support and collaboration of Cleveland officials. City officials declined to be interviewed about the plan last week.

"The specific plan sets up a framework for accomplishing some key work in fundamental areas," Barge told The Associated Press. "That's something everyone involved thought made sense."

Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for northern Ohio, said in a statement that the amount of input and collaboration on the first-year plan is evidence of the commitment to reform the police department.

"This 70-page, painstaking to-do list delivers a clear public message — as Clevelanders we are not afraid to get down to work," Dettelbach said.

Under the plan, Cleveland is required to devise policies over the next 12 months on training; create a new recruitment policy that better reflects the makeup of the city, which is more than half black; come up with a procedure on dealing with people who are having mental health crises; hire a civilian to head the department's internal affairs unit; and overhaul the city's Office of Professional Standards, which investigates citizen complaints about police.

Mayor Frank Jackson has said the consent decree will cost the city millions of dollars over the coming years. The plan requires the city to conduct a study in the next year to assess its needs and priorities for equipment and resources, including the number of officers needed to "fulfill its mission and to satisfy the requirements of the agreement."

All the changes and the crafting of new policies will be done with input from the community and officers across the ranks, Barge said. He said reforming the police department "isn't going to happen in a conference room."

"To change an organization and to change the culture, you have to do reform in a bottom-up kind of way," Barge said.

Read the fully story here.