Cleveland City Council meets on DOJ report - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Cleveland City Council meets on DOJ report

Cleveland City Council holds a special meeting. (Source: WOIO) Cleveland City Council holds a special meeting. (Source: WOIO)
A Cleveland City Council meeting from November 2014. (Source: WOIO) A Cleveland City Council meeting from November 2014. (Source: WOIO)
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DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Cleveland City Council Public Safety Committee held a special meeting on Wednesday to review the Department of Justice report about police practices

During the meeting, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach spoke of what the findings mean for the city and its officers.

Although there was a packed crowd, neither Police Chief Calvin Williams nor Safety Director Michael McGrath were in attendance.

"We can't sweep these types of issues under the rug. We have to address them head on," says Dettelbach. "These issues are central not only to public safety, but to officer safety and forums, such as this one, are critical in addressing the issues that face us today."As a result of the DOJ's findings, the city and department will enter into a statement of principles. Dettelbach says that Mayor Frank Jackson and Chief Williams will continue to oversee the police department, but the DOJ will act as an outside monitor.

In relation to the deadly police shooting from 2012, a judge has demanded copies of all statements made to investigators by officers facing charges. The defense attorney says charges were built on statements from officers when told their words could not be used in a criminal case.  

In December 2012, Mayor Jackson asked for a review by the DOJ to obtain an objective, transparent, outside evaluation of the Cleveland Division of Police's policies and operations related to the use of force. The department returned with intent to overhaul the CPD after compiling a report of nearly 60 pages accusing police of excessive force. 

The city says it entered this DOJ review committed to righting any unconstitutional wrongs proven to exist within the CPD. According to Mayor Jackson, the CPD has made significant progress in implementing the types of changes designed to foster professionalism in the police force and to ensure a safe environment on the streets, but there is always room for improvement. 

Council members told the U.S. Attorney's Office a lack of community policing is a major issue."We knew first hand they were not doing community policing. We knew what it looked like, what it felt like, what it smelled like and we knew they were not doing it. We did nothing to put pressure on them to do it," said Councilman Zack Reed.

The DOJ and city had a voluntary agreement to improve the police department back in 2004, but a new agreement will come with a federal judge to make sure improvements are made.  

"Maybe the time frame of the agreement wasn't a long enough time frame to make sure it took root. Maybe the scope of the agreement was a little too limited," said Dettelbach.

Committee Chairman Councilman Matt Zone is scheduling the next four Safety Committee hearings in Cleveland neighborhoods, making it convenient for citizens to attend and voice their opinions and concerns regarding the findings.

The first of the community "Listening Tour" sessions is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 18 at the Harvard Community Services Center located at 18240 Harvard Ave. The second session is scheduled from 6-8 p.m. on Dec. 30 at Sagrada Familia Church AT 7719 Detroit Ave.

Zone said he will schedule two more sessions in January at locations to be determined.

"We will listen to what the people say and we will take copious notes," said Zone. "This process is going to be very transparent, and in the end, council will put together a public document detailing our findings."

Council President Kevin Kelley described the day as a starting point to improved relations between police and citizens.

"We are being proactive here in the face of very serious, very troubling issues," said Kelley. "Now is not the time for finger pointing and inflammatory rhetoric. It is time for the entire community to come together to focus on the justice department's findings and to work together for change."

The committee also heard testimony from City Law Director Barbara Langhenry, who said the DOJ and Mayor Jackson's administration are scheduled to meet for the first time next week to discuss the investigative findings.

"We are facing these challenges with our eyes wide open," she said.

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