In a major milestone, the Cleveland Division of Police, the City of Cleveland, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Cleveland Federal Monitoring Team (with support and assistance by the Policing Project) are excited to announce the completion of a comprehensive community policing plan.
Community policing is a strategy that prioritizes officers working within the same geographic area so they can better get to know residents and work with them to address public safety concerns. It is not an extra activity or an unconnected array of programs or initiatives. Community policing principles must inform decision-making at all levels of the agency, including decisions about hiring, deployment, and promotions. Appropriately, the City of Cleveland created plans to implement Community and Problem-Oriented Policing (called “CPOP”) to rethink core organizational practices, including recruitment and staffing, in a way that best promotes community policing.
COMMUNITY VOICE FOR COMMUNITY POLICING
Importantly, the city’s plans to introduce CPOP were the subject of substantial community input on the front-end, with numerous opportunities for Cleveland residents to offer their thoughts on what policing should look like in their city.
In early 2017, the Policing Project worked with the Monitoring Team to solicit substantive community input on principles of community policing, with the goal of incorporating that feedback into a new CPOP plan. This engagement process consisted of numerous public forums, town halls, and citywide roundtables between March and June 2017. Altogether, more than 1,000 community members attended these events and more than 600 completed questionnaires.
In May 2018, after continued development guided by the initial community recommendations, a draft of the CPOP Plan was released for public comment and input. The Community Police Commission, an entity made up of volunteers that provides recommendations to the police, took charge of soliciting public feedback through broad-based engagement and stakeholder-specific outreach. The Commission’s findings were presented to the City, the DOJ, and the Monitoring Team.
The final CPOP Plan, now approved by the federal court in Cleveland, envisions significant organizational changes. The Plan addresses how officers use their time and how the Division of Police provides personnel with substantially greater opportunity to engage with residents and solve community problems. Specifically, patrol officers who are assigned to neighborhood districts will be expected to spend at least 20 percent of their time engaging residents and collaborating to address public safety issues. This may include participating in bike and foot patrols, attending community meetings, or creating and implementing action plans with residents to address their concerns.
CDP officers have and will continue to receive training on methods to best work collaboratively with residents to address their public safety concerns, including in ways that avoid enforcement.
WHAT’S AHEAD FOR CLEVELAND?
Like any product of democratic deliberations, Cleveland’s CPOP Plan does not address the complete range of residents’ concerns. It reflects, in some ways, competing visions of community policing. And it is only the first step. It will require sustained commitment and action to take the Plan from paper to real changes in practice.
Still, Cleveland’s new community policing plan points to the ability of front-end community engagement—starting early and sustained throughout the plan’s creation—to shape the contours of how policing occurs in a community.