CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - It's been nearly four weeks since the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in the custody of a white police officer in Minneapolis.
Immediately the protests and the national outcry began for police reform and improved relationships between law enforcement and the African American community.
Now the Cleveland Police Foundation says the city’s police department is building new bridges.
The Cleveland Police Foundation is a standalone entity of community leaders, separate from Cleveland Police, who work with the department and local organizations to strengthen the relationship.
The CPF believes programs they began in some Cleveland Police districts two to three years ago have already proven their worth, and they have plans to expand them.
Rick DeChant, who sits on the CPF board of directors, tells 19 News, “What could we do to improve and make things better internally the way we run the district? As well as our relationships with the community?”
It was at least two years ago when Cleveland Police launched a program called Cultural Transformation at Fourth District Headquarters. It’s a program they plan to roll out in the First District on the West Side, and the Third District in downtown Cleveland.
“Empathy, compassion, a little more listening, a little more understanding is coming into the day-to-day protocols with the Cultural Transformation Program,” DeChant said.
What has also helped is finding overtime through private funding for the officers who are actively engaged in community affairs, and a way to streamline their paperwork to their cell phones to spend more time engaged with the community, and DeChant says it appears to be working.
“In a recent conversation I had with the Commander of the District where this has been rolled out, he indicated to me that serious felony related crimes are down almost 40% in the last year. Use of force by officers is down about the same percentage,” according to DeChant who is Interim President of the Board.
Another successful program, according to the Cleveland Police Foundation, is what’s called Pipeline. A program they hope will be just that someday, a pipeline to recruit future police officers and firefighters.
DeChant says, “It involves young men and women from Cleveland Junior High and High School who engage in projects with Cleveland Police Officers as mentors, to learn about potential careers in public safety here in Cleveland.”
Police and the Board hope the Pipeline Program will help young people build trust with law enforcement early on. Bridging that divide sooner, rather than later.