© 2024 WYSO
Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Cleveland police make some progress on consent decree but struggle to ensure oversight

The Cleveland Police Interim Monitor Ayesha Bell Hardaway welcomes the new community police commissioners Jan. 25.
Kelly Krabill
Ideastream Public Media
Interim monitor of Cleveland Police Reform Ayesha Bell Hardaway welcomes the new community police commissioners Jan. 25.

Cleveland and the U.S. Department of Justice were back in federal court Thursday for an update on Cleveland police consent decree. The hearing focused on the city’s struggles to ensure oversight of the department.

“We have some significant concerns about the reliability of some of the oversight elements in the decree,” Interim monitor Ayesha Bell Hardaway said.

The monitoring team and lawyers from the Justice Department said the agency that considers civilian complaints against Cleveland police officers is “backsliding.”

At the start of 2023, the Office of Professional Standards had 40 cases that had been open for more than a year.

“One year should be an aberration at OPS,” said Richard Rosenthal of the monitoring team. “We were here in court in 2017, 2018, 2019 talking about backlogs at OPS and we thought we had addressed it.”

In 2018, the city hired an outside company to clear a backlog of years-old cases at OPS.

But the backlog is growing because of understaffing at OPS and procedural delays after the Civilian Police Review Board recommends discipline.

The OPS administrator position has been open for more than a year. The general manager position, the number two job, has been open for two years.

According to the Justice Department, the police internal affairs department, which investigates internal reports of misconduct, has also had trouble meeting requirements of the consent decree.

It spent about a year without a superintendent in place

After Christopher Viland took over in June, the office lost 7 of its 10 investigators.

Viland told Judge Solomon Oliver the Internal Affairs Division will be able to show its meeting the requirements of the consent decree in coming months.

Hardaway said the department has made progress in other areas, including adherence to use of force policies. The police department has fulfilled almost all of the use of force reforms in the consent decree.

A recent review of officer use of force reports by the monitoring team found they largely followed policies.

But the monitor and Justice Department questioned whether a new system of oversight – the force review board – is functioning properly.

The board meets at least quarterly to review a sample of use of force incidents, including all higher level incidents, to make sure policies and training are working properly.

“There were several level 2 and level 3 uses of forces that had not been properly identified and put in front of the board,” said Hardaway, adding that led to the scheduling of three additional force review boards to review those incidents.

And finally, the topic of community and problem oriented policing, or CPOP, was covered. The city recently began requiring that officers patrol more on foot citywide. They’ve also increased meetings with the public in the past year.

But, said the monitoring team, the city has not moved from engaging with the community to actually involving the community in policing strategy, said Rick Myers of the monitoring team.

“It’s not just handing out business cards,” Myers said. “The essence of CPOP is that community and police together develop strategies to solve problems.”

At the end of the hearing, Judge Solomon Oliver said he would publicly announce his choice for a new monitor in the next couple of weeks. Earlier this month, the city and Department of Justice made a recommendation for a new monitor, which was filed with the court under seal.

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