- The Washington Times - Monday, May 25, 2015

The Justice Department has reached a settlement with the city of Cleveland over the unnecessary use of excessive and deadly force by the city’s police department, according to a report Monday by The New York Times.

The settlement, which was first reported by The New York Times, could be announced as early as Tuesday. Though details were not immediately available, the Justice Department in similar settlements has installed independent monitors in cities to oversee changes, which often call for revising use-of-force policies and updating officer training.

That an agreement would be officially announced this week was also reported by The Associated Press, citing an official speaking on the condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly ahead of the official announcement.

A Justice Department report of its 18-month investigation into the Cleveland Police Department released in December found that the department “engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

Findings listed unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings; unnecessary and excessive use of “tasers, chemical spray and fists”; excessive force against mentally ill people; and the “employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable and places officers and civilians at unnecessary risk.”

The move was reported two days after a white Cleveland police officer was found not guilty of manslaughter in the 2012 shooting death of two unarmed black men, when the officer jumped onto the hood of their car and fired repeatedly into the vehicle.

The backfiring vehicle was mistaken for a gunshot, leading to a high-speed chase involving 62 police cruisers, AP reported. Once the men were cornered, 13 officers fired on the car, resulting in a 137-shot barrage through the windshield.

The chase was what prompted the Justice Department investigation.

As a result of the report released in December, the Cleveland Police Department is required to work with community leaders and other officials to come up with a plan to reform the police department. The plan must be approved by a judge and overseen by an independent monitor.

A spokeswoman for the Justice Department did not return AP messages for comment Monday, and calls to the Cleveland Police Department and city were not immediately returned.

The Justice Department report found the worst examples of excessive force involved patrol officers who endangered lives by shooting at suspects and cars, hit people over the head with guns and used stun guns on handcuffed suspects.

The agency also found that officers were inadequately trained, ill-equipped and unfamiliar with how to implement use-of-force policies.

Some of the worst criticisms in the report were leveled at police supervisors. According to the report, some supervisors encouraged the poor behaviors and did not investigate the claims of abuse. Some told the Justice Department that they wrote their reports to make officers look as good as possible. Only six officers were suspended for improper use of force over a three-year period, the report found.

The Justice Department also investigated the Cleveland Police Department in 2004 over the use of force. When that probe concluded, the agency left it to the department to clean up its act. This time, federal authorities intervened by way of consent decree. Multiple police forces in the country operate under federal consent decrees that involved independent oversight.

News of the settlement also comes as the city prepares for rulings on what the department will do in the videotaped killing of Tamir Rice in November. Cleveland officers aggressively drove toward and quickly shot the 12-year-old boy as he played with a toy gun in a park.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.


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