- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

CLEVELAND (AP) - More than 1,000 members of a religious coalition recommend a series of steps to reform the Cleveland Police Department, including use of force policy changes, following the release of a federal report concluding the department used excessive force and an officer’s fatal shooting of a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun.

Leaders from Greater Cleveland Congregations presented their recommendations for police reform to local and federal officials at the Olivet Institutional Baptist Church on Tuesday night. Other recommendations include increased accountability and transparency, better training and diversified personnel.

The recommendations come after a Department of Justice report issued in December said an investigation had found a pattern and practice of Cleveland police officers using excessive force and violating rights. The 20-month federal investigation was launched after a November 2012 case where 13 police officers fired a total of 137 rounds into a car after a high-speed chase, killing two unarmed suspects in the vehicle.

Cleveland police have also come under scrutiny for the Nov. 22 shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was carrying a pellet gun at a playground when a rookie officer fired on him.

The coalition recommended the establishment of processes within the community for sustained cooperation and accountability, the Northeast Ohio Media Group reported (https://bit.ly/1LLQcSd ). They called for an independent auditor to ensure that new polices are followed and an online system to make police data and procedures available to the public.

The group also asked for financial sustainability, encouraging city funds and assistance from the DOJ to cover the cost of reforms.

“We see a chance to seize an opportunity, an opportunity to shape changes within the Cleveland police department,” said GCC’s Louise McKinney. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, a U.S. Department of Justice representative and other officials attended the meeting.

The city and the Justice Department have begun negotiating the terms of a consent decree.

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