- Associated Press - Monday, February 10, 2014

CLEVELAND (AP) - The chief of the Cleveland Police Department, which is under investigation for a chase involving more than 100 officers, 137 shots fired and two apparently unarmed people killed, was promoted Monday to safety director. He was replaced by the deputy chief of field operations.

Mayor Frank Jackson administered the oath to Chief Michael McGrath as safety director in charge of police and fire. McGrath replaced Martin Flask, who is retiring as safety director after a police career that began in 1973. He will become a special aide to the mayor.

Jackson praised the work of Flask, who handled disciplinary hearings for officers involved in the chase.

“He has carried this department through some very trying times,” Jackson said. “He has done it professionally and he’s done it with great fairness and equality to everyone in which he has to deal with.”

The deputy chief of field operations, Calvin Williams, was appointed chief.

The department is under federal investigation for allegedly using excessive force. And a county grand jury is investigating the 13 officers who fired shots during the November 2012 chase.

Mike Tobin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, said the federal investigation is ongoing. Spokesman Joe Frolik with the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office had no comment on the grand jury investigation.

Critics called the shooting a racially motivated execution.

Police don’t know why the driver, Timothy Russell, 43, refused to stop. Russell had a criminal record including convictions for receiving stolen property and robbery. His passenger, Malissa Williams, 30, had convictions for drug-related charges and attempted abduction.

The chase began when an officer thought he heard a gunshot from a car speeding by the police and courts complex in downtown Cleveland and jumped into his patrol car, made a U-turn and radioed for help. It ended with patrol cars corralling the fleeing vehicle in a school parking lot in East Cleveland.

Russell was shot 23 times and Williams was shot 24 times, with one officer standing on the hood of their car, firing into the passenger compartment.

The police union defended the officers’ actions and said officers used force to confront a driver using his vehicle as a potentially deadly weapon by trying to ram them.

An investigation by the Ohio attorney general blamed police leadership and communications failures in the chase.

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