Ezra Van Auken
May 27, 2015
(ANTIMEDIA) Residents of Cleveland have room to breathe, or at least that’s what the Department of Justice and Cleveland Police Department are saying after a new set of guidelines were agreed on between local, state and federal agencies regarding the violent tendencies of city police.
After the headlining of a number of police cases in Cleveland, and the overall police-civilian tension nationwide, the Justice Department decided it necessary to conduct an investigation on the city department. The report was released late last year and found unscrupulous activity on all levels — including inadequate training and insufficient accountability, among other things.
Excessive shootings and “head strikes with impact weapons” were noted as investigation findings, as well as “unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use” with tasers, chemical sprays or fists. Sadly enough, the report even found cases where Cleveland officers used these same negligent tactics on mentally ill individuals and those “in crisis,” as the report puts it. The Justice Dept. investigation even goes as far as to acknowledging that in the past ten years the agency has found Cleveland’s police department to have been involved in some sort of violent abuse. Aggressive policing is no stranger to the police ranks in Cleveland, given that in 2002 the Justice Dept. suggested CPD make functional changes to begin with.
The hand-slap treatment by federal officials likely plays into some sort of handshake between the local, state and federal agencies — in the backroom. Considering that the city police department was given rules to follow ten years ago, decided not to abide by them, and then became even more violent in policing techniques, it would seem some good posturing had to have occurred. It’s unclear why punishment hasn’t grown against the CPD. Since investigations started in 2004, the department has always been found with corrupted police tactics, whether structurally or through individual violence.
Hardly buried on page five, the report explains, “CDP entered into an agreement with us, but that agreement was not enforced by a court and did not involve an independent monitor to assess its implementation.” In 2005, one year after the agreement, it was terminated due to the CPD’s success in actually following the rules provided. According to the Justice Dept., once the agreement was over and done away with, the CPD went back to their authoritative policing measures — at least that’s what the federal department says.
Now a decade later, the Justice Dept. is at it again; telling city officials to play ball and abide by the rules that they’ve yet to ever recognize. Essentially what federal officials and Cleveland’s PD have agreed to is what was agreed to a decade ago, except this time around there will be an independent monitor to oversee whether the Cleveland police really stop murdering, beating and caging people at noticeable rates — granted that is why this is happening, again. Not to mention, the Justice Dept. now has legal authority in a binding contract between city officials and the feds.
Cleveland’s city police can only end the agreement if a federal judge approves that move. And of course, the CPD would have to be in full compliance with terms to have that binding agreement ended.
Speaking in broader terms, NPR’s Carrie Johnson explains, “So now, since the Obama administration has taken over, they try to negotiate court-enforceable agreements that require the appointment or hiring of an independent monitor to make sure that police don’t backslide in the way they saw it happen in the ’90s.” As police abuse and militarization continue to snowball, the federal government is finding avenues to make binding agreements with local departments; which is new territory for Washington. What’s in the agreement though is what’s almost embarrassing for city officials.
In the 105-page layout, Cleveland officers agree to things such as no more using neck holds, no more firing warning shots, no more using their firearm as a baton, and having to give medical assistance to any victim on scene if there is no medical personnel available. These steps and practices, one would think, would be second nature to any police department. The agreement also attempts to bring clarity to police-on-police investigations, and calls for more regulation of those investigations. De-escalation practices will also be pushed within the department as a means of dealing with tense situations professionally.
Together, the CPD and Justice Dept. are responsible for finding an independent monitor group which will oversee the city’s actions in relation to their agreement. The contract spans five years and will be reviewed and ruled on by a federal judge once all said and done. However, just remember that a more watered-down version of this agreement happened a decade ago and was illegitimate in the scheme of things – as admitted by the Justice Dept.’s own report. Whether these uncharted waters for Washington is a good move or bad move has yet to be seen.
What is more intrusive about the agreement is that, regulation-wise, the CPD is required to start collecting data anytime an officer is involved in use of force instances, searches and seizures. In addition, anytime an officer draws his firearm, the department is to record that data. That data will be accessible to the independent monitor and federal officials, all compiled on the city’s “Officer Intervention Program” database. Besides data collection, Cleveland’s officials have also agreed to establishing a community police commission, which includes members from three different policing organizations and other non-police related groups.
An extensive web of legally-contracted rules and programs aimed at stopping police violence is what the Justice Dept. has served up for Cleveland and many other cities. There are only a set of possibilities that could stem from this, either the centralization of corruption, the transparency of the city department, or the negligence by both federal and local officials. One is certainly possible. Some have objected to this move saying that federal and local governments could monopolize the self-interest double-standard problem that have already plagued policing for so long.
To read the entire legal contract click here.
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