The Justice Department announced today that it has opened a pattern or practice investigation into use of force by the Cleveland Division of Police (CPD). The investigation will focus on allegations that CPD officers use excessive force, including unreasonable deadly force, and on the adequacy of CPD’s training, supervision, and accountability mechanisms that are essential to effective, constitutional policing.
The Justice Department’s investigation will determine whether CPD officers engage in a pattern or practice of using excessive force in violation of the Constitution and federal law. This investigation will include a comprehensive review of CPD’s policies, procedures, training, accountability systems, and community engagement. As part of this investigation, the Justice Department will reach out to community members and groups for help in identifying potential problems within the police department.
Department officials have met with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson, CPD Chief Michael McGrath, and Director of Public Safety Martin Flask and will continue to work closely with both the city and CPD as the investigation progresses.
“Police officers across the country are called upon to protect and safeguard members of their communities and are afforded the authority they need to do so, including the authority to use deadly force,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “It is absolutely imperative that officers use that authority responsibly and within the boundaries of the law. We are eager to work together with the city of Cleveland and its police department to help ensure that its officers are best serving the individuals they are sworn to protect.”
“As we begin this process, our commitment to this community and this city is to conduct a thorough and fair investigation,” said Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio. “Our joint goal cannot be to invent tough issues, nor can we hide from them if they exist. The Mayor, among others, requested this investigation, and we hope that with the continued cooperation of the city and the community we can ensure Cleveland’s residents receive top notch police protection.”
The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 prohibits state and local governments from engaging in a pattern or practice of misconduct by law enforcement officers that deprives individuals of federally-protected rights. The act also allows the Justice Department to remedy such misconduct through civil litigation. The Justice Department has conducted similar investigations and has obtained important reforms in police departments and law enforcement agencies across the country.
The Special Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio, in Cleveland, are jointly conducting this investigation. Individuals with relevant information are encouraged to contact the Justice Department via email at email@example.com or by phone at (202) 307-6479.
Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt . Additional information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Ohio is available on its website at www.justice.gov/usao/ohn .