The move comes as part of a settlement the city reached with the U.S. Department of Justice. Officials hope to have all 1,400 officers trained on the computer system by the end of the year.
Government Technology (Sep. 28, 2017)
(TNS) -- CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The city of Cleveland on Wednesday announced that it began a gradual roll out of a computer program that allows police officers to file reports with computers from the field.
The field-based reporting program was mandated in a settlement, known as a consent decree, the city reached with the Justice Department to reform the Cleveland police department. The city said in a news release that it has trained 120 officers, and that the goal is to have all 1,400 officers trained on it by the end of the year.
Greg White, the city's consent decree coordinator, said the program will allow officers to file reports from anywhere, be it in a district station or in the field. The city has 357 patrol cars and the city is still in the process of installing computers into all of them, White said. The city will be installing the computers in 35 cars that officers will continue to use, as well as in between 50 and 60 patrol cars the city intends to purchase to replace old cars, White said.
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When asked for an exact number of cars the city is slated to replace, White said he did not know. City spokesman Dan Williams refused to provide an answer when asked Thursday morning.
The news release said the training and use of the computers began in early September. Mayor Frank Jackson's administration did not announce the program until Wednesday, while the mayor is in the midst of a bitter campaign against Councilman Zack Reed for a November general election.
In recent weeks, the mayor has highlighted a series of initiatives he and others say will fight crime in the city, as Reed has made the city's rise in homicides and his criticisms of Jackson's response to them a cornerstone of his campaign against the three-term incumbent.
In a Facebook Live video the city posted to announce the project roll out, city Information Technology Director Larry Jones said a group put together a "communications schedule" as the project came together, which included plans for announcements like the one made Wednesday.
Using computers to type up police reports while on scene has been touted as a way to free up time for officers to spend more time patrolling and interacting with residents. City officers for years have had to go back to their district stations to type up and file reports.
In the Facebook Live video, Jones said "platoon B" -- the officers that work the afternoon shift -- is now training and using the computers. Day shift officers will start training and using the computers next month, and in December the night shift officers will follow, Jones said.
Police Chief Calvin Williams, also featured in the video, said that "now the officers can take that report in the field and actually enter it in the car computer as they're going about their normal day and their other duties."
White also said the new program will allow the chief to track crime statistics throughout the city.
The lack of updated technology for officers to use was one of many issues the Justice Department pointed out in a December 2014 report, which followed an 18-month investigation.
The Justice Department said the city has historically not provided enough money to update the equipment and resources for officers. Ultimately, the city's failure to upgrade its technology contributed to the pattern of officers using excessive force on suspects and residents, the Justice Department wrote.
The city agreed to address its equipment and resource needs in the settlement, known as a consent decree.
The city is required to draft an equipment and resource study and submit it to the monitoring team. However, the monitoring team has consistently sent the city back to re-draft it and said the city has not provided enough details.
Cleveland has historically lagged behind other major cities in the technology it uses to fight crime and support its officers. The monitoring team wrote in a June 2016 court filing that the city "does not yet benefit from many of the basic technological innovations associated with contemporary, urban policing."
In the video, neither Jones nor Williams mention the consent decree, though a quote from the mayor contained in the news release mentions it.
Instead, both Williams and the mayor's office news release said that Issue 32, which increased the municipal tax rate for those who work in the city, helped pay for the new computers. The city has pointed to Issue 32, which raises about $80 million more annually in tax revenue, as giving it the ability to buy new patrol cars and ambulances.
This story has been updated to reflect the correct number of patrol cars in which the city intends to install computer systems.