With seemingly perfect timing, the Department of Justice released the results of a longtime investigation of the police in Cleveland, Ohio over the use of force by officers. The investigation found systemic and frequent use of unnecessary force by officers with little oversight or accountability.
eveland police routinely engage in “unreasonable and unnecessary” force, exemplified by a half-hour police chase involving 100 officers that left two unarmed African Americans dead when police mistook the car backfiring for gunshots and shot each of them more than 20 times, a Justice Department investigation revealed Thursday.
“The investigation concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that Cleveland police engage in a pattern or practice of unreasonable force in violation of the 4th Amendment,” Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. said Thursday. “Our investigation revealed that the causes of these patterns or practices were systemic and resulted from organizational deficiencies.”The probe, part of an ongoing series of “pattern or practice” investigations into the nation’s police departments, also found that Cleveland police often needlessly shot residents, struck them with head blows and subjected them to Taser weapons and chemical spray.
Taken together, the incidents in Ohio’s second-largest city, the Justice Department concluded, have led to a situation where “avoidable force becomes inevitable.”
Faced with the federal probe’s findings, Cleveland police and city officials have signed a statement of principles committing them to mending police-community relations. Holder said the plan will lead to a consent decree that would be “court-enforceable,” with an independent monitor to oversee improvements and ensure that reforms are made.
Investigations in other major cities have found nearly identical problems. Unfortunately, that’s done almost nothing to prompt action for serious reform either in Congress or in state legislatures.