Wed, May 27, 2015 - Page 7 News List

Cleveland reaches deal with US on policing: official


Cleveland reached a settlement with the US Department of Justice over excessive force and civil rights violations by its police department that was due to be revealed yesterday, a senior federal law enforcement official said.

The official was not authorized to speak publicly about the deal ahead of the announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

News of the settlement comes two days after a white police officer was acquitted of manslaughter for firing the final 15 rounds of a 137-shot police barrage through the windshield of a car carrying two unarmed black suspects in 2012.

The suspects’ backfiring vehicle had been mistaken for a gunshot, leading to a high-speed chase involving 62 police cruisers. Once the suspects were cornered, 13 officers fired at the car.

The chase prompted an 18-month justice department investigation. In a report released in December last year, the department required the city to work with community leaders and other officials to devise a plan to reform the police department, which a judge must approve and an independent monitor would oversee.

The specifics of the settlement, first reported by the New York Times, were not available on Monday.

The US report included the police chain of command. The worst examples of excessive force involved patrol officers who endangered lives by shooting at suspects and cars, hit people in the head with guns and used stun guns on handcuffed suspects.

Supervisors and senior police officers received some of the report’s most searing criticism. The federal agency said officers were poorly trained and some did not know how to implement use-of-force policies. The report also said officers are ill-equipped.

In December last year, Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said that while it was not easy to have to share the findings with his 1,500-member department, he was committed to change.

“The people of this city need to know we will work to make the police department better,” Williams said.

The agency said supervisors encouraged some of the bad behavior and rarely investigated it. Some said they wrote their reports to make officers look as good as possible, the federal agency said.

The department found that just six officers had been suspended for improper use of force over a three-year period.

Saturday’s manslaughter verdict against patrolman Michael Brelo led to a day of mostly peaceful protests, but also more than 70 arrests.

Two other police-involved deaths still hang over the city: a boy holding a pellet gun fatally shot by an officer and a woman who died after officers took her down and handcuffed her.

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