The Justice Department on Thursday targeted the Cleveland Police Department in a civil rights investigation to determine whether police in that city used excessive force, including “unreasonable deadly force,” in violation of the Constitution and federal law.
The investigation also will focus on the adequacy of Cleveland Police Department training, supervision and accountability mechanisms essential to what Justice called “effective, constitutional policing.”
City officials have been concerned about the use of excessive force by police in the wake of a car chase in November that ended with officers firing 137 shots and two people dying.
In January, a federal judge approved a consent decree governing New Orleans’ police department. The decree resulted from a lengthy Justice Department probe that found a long list of police abuses, including the use of excessive force, unconstitutional stops and searches, and racial discrimination.
Last month, an investigation by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine called the November chase a “systemic failure” of the police department and Cuyahoga County, Ohio.
“The investigation will focus on use of force issues and will examine allegations that Cleveland police officers use excessive force,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who heads the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “In the course of the investigation, we will examine the adequacy of the police department’s policies, procedures, training, supervision and accountability mechanisms, all of which are essential to effective, constitutional policing.
“In addition, we will review the police department’s engagement with the community and will be interacting with officers in the field,” Mr. Perez said during a news conference at the Cleveland Police Department.
A preliminary investigation of the department began last year and, according to Mr. Perez, was upgraded to a full probe this week. He said the investigation would examine the department’s policies and practices on its use of force.
He promised the review would be “as transparent as possible” and “thorough, fair and independent.
“We will follow the facts, wherever the facts,” he said. “We will peel the onion to its core, and leave no stone unturned.”