Progress, lower crime and reduction in use of force for Cleveland, new report finds

On August 15, the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team released its Fifth Semiannual Report and Comprehensive Re-Assessment. Among other things, the new report highlights encouraging signs that revisions to police policies, particularly the use of force policy, are having a positive impact on the streets of Cleveland: use of force is down, even as crime and officer injuries are down as well. 

The new report highlights encouraging signs that revisions to police policies, particularly the use of force policy, are having a positive impact on the streets of Cleveland.

The report provides updates for the Northern District of Ohio and the public on the City of Cleveland’s implementation of the federal Consent Decree and the reforms it lays out for the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP). The Policing Project assisted the Monitoring Team in developing the report, including assessing compliance and documenting recent progress made. 

While the use of force data only reflects a limited timeframe of five months, many of the outcomes are encouraging. This includes important signs that CDP officers, having received quality training on the new policies, understand the new expectations and protocols around the use of force —a key area of the Consent Decree’s reforms.

Successes, setbacks and the path forward

The Report also highlights CDP’s work establishing a set of policies and protocols around interacting with individuals experiencing behavioral health crises. New crisis intervention policies and trainings provide specific instruction on various mental and behavioral health issues so that officers know how to respond and link subjects to appropriate social service responses when appropriate. This work has helped make the Cleveland Division of Police a leader in addressing mental health with appropriate responses and interventions.

The Fifth Semiannual Report also details some of the challenges and work remaining for CDP and the Cleveland community. This includes the need for significant effort by the Office of Professional Standards, which investigates citizen complaints, to conduct its investigations and rulings in a timely manner. OPS has long faced a hefty backlog of unresolved complaints.

The longer complaints sit without being resolved, the more the public loses confidence in the organization’s ability to hold police misconduct to account. Now under new leadership, OPS will need to improve its investigatory capabilities. 

Creating meaningful community conversation

The Cleveland Community Police Commission too has seen its share of struggles. As the body created by the Consent Decree to improve public trust in the Division of Police and to make recommendations to city leaders that reflect the priorities of Cleveland’s diverse communities, the CPC is a critical stakeholder in the Decree’s implementation. Both the Monitoring Team and the Policing Project remain committed to supporting the Commission as it re-energizes its efforts. 

At the same time, as the Fifth Semiannual Report details, the Monitoring Team understands that the CPC is not, and should not be, the sole vehicle for community participation in policing. The Monitoring Team and Policing Project will continue to ensure that community engagement remains robust throughout the Decree’s implementation through numerous avenues connecting to different communities.

Though the Fifth Semiannual Report shows much work remains, it is an optimistic account. The Policing Project commends the City of Cleveland, Cleveland Division of Police, and the many residents of Cleveland who have been dedicated to redefining policing in Cleveland going forward.