The Justice Department completed a report on Cleveland’s police department last year and concluded that things would have to change substantially to prevent unlawful episodes of police brutality from happening again.
Today the city agreed to strict new rules governing how police officers go about their job, as laid out in a Justice Department settlement. The list of changes is extensive, going on for 105 pages. Few places in the U.S. have such exacting standards. The new change in policy was approved three days after a white police officer was found not guilty after killing two black men three years ago. The death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police in Cleveland last year, is still being investigated.
This weekend, several protesters were arrested, although demonstrations were mostly peaceful.
Now the Cleveland Police Department will have to document every use of force thoroughly, and sensible rules on how to approach suspects will now become gospel. Every time a police officer un-holsters their gun, it will need to be written down. When suspects are injured by police officers, first aid will need to be administered immediately. Using force after a suspect has been chased will be banned, and warnings and chances to surrender will be necessary before force is used. The situations where firing at a moving car are allowed will be limited, and neck holds and pistol whipping will be banned. An independent monitor is charged with making sure the police department makes these changes during the next five years.
The Justice Department also demands more exacting editorial standards in police reports. Clichés like “furtive movement” are to be used sparingly.
As the New York Times notes, the Justice Department has opened “nearly two dozen” civil-rights investigations into police departments in the past six years. An investigation into Baltimore’s police department is ongoing, and one in Ferguson, Missouri, was recently completed.
After the announcement, Mayor Frank Jackson vowed that community policing would become part of the city’s “DNA.” “As we move forward, it is my strong belief that as other cities across this country address and look at their police issues in their communities, they will be able to say, ‘Let’s look at Cleveland because Cleveland has done it right.’”