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Cleveland chooses two finalists for new police consent decree monitor

Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb speaks at podium during press conference.
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb, seen here with City Council President Blaine Griffin and City Council Safety Committee Chairman Mike Polensek, gives an update on city's progress towards completing the police consent decree on Aug. 16, 2022.

The city of Cleveland and U.S. Department of Justice will consider two candidates to take over as the monitor overseeing the Cleveland Police consent decree.

The candidates are the Washington, D.C and London-based law firm Hogan Lovells and the Long Island, New York-based consulting firm J.S. Held.

Whichever company is selected will take over the contract held by former monitor Hassan Aden, who left late last year.

Aden’s deputy monitor, Case Western Reserve University Professor Ayesha Bell Hardaway, has been serving as interim monitor since Aden’s departure.

Bell Hardaway kept in place the rest of the team that worked on the decree under Aden, but, based on a statement from the city, it appears the new monitor will bring along a new team.

“We appreciate the role that the Monitoring Team has played to help us get to where we are today, and we are looking forward to building on that progress. My administration is working closely with the Department of Justice to identify a new Monitoring Team, and we are hopeful they will provide a boost of momentum to meet the goals of the Consent Decree,” said Mayor Justin M. Bibb.

The city will hold three public forums next week, on March 7, 8 and 9, where representatives of the two firms will take questions from the public.

The federal judge with authority over the consent decree, Solomon Oliver, will have final say on hiring the new monitor, whose primary role is report to him on the progress the city is making towards completing the consent decree.

Hogan Lovells is one of the largest law firms in the world, with more than 2,600 lawyers in offices in more than 20 countries. According to the city’s announcement, their monitoring team would include a former federal prosecutor from California and a member of the monitoring team in Ferguson, Missouri.

J.S. Held is a global consulting firm and, according to the city, would include staff with experience working with law enforcement.

Based on their websites, neither company appears to have any direct expertise in police reform or consent decrees.

Whichever company is selected will take on the job at a key point in the consent decree. The city entered into the agreement in 2015, agreeing to completing more than 300 specific reforms to the police department, largely centered around use of force, officer accountability and building community trust.

The city, Justice Department and monitoring team were in federal court most recently in September. During that hearing, the city argued it had achieved the main goals of the consent decree. The monitoring team and the Justice Department disagreed.

According to an evaluation of the consent decree status report from September by the Community Police Commission, the city has completed about 42 percent of the requirements in the Consent Decree.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.