Justice News

Head of Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta Delivers Remarks Announcing a Settlement Agreement with the City of Cleveland Over the Pattern or Practice Investigation into the Cleveland Division of Police
Cleveland, OH
United States
Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good afternoon and thank you all for joining us.  Thank you, Steve, for your commitment to the communities that make up Cleveland.  And thank you for your strong leadership and the important partnership between our two offices throughout this process.   

I want to especially thank Mayor Jackson and Chief Williams, who are here with us today and are committed to continuing to work with us to make the Cleveland Division of Police one of the best police agencies in the nation.  From the beginning of our investigation, and through the subsequent negotiation of this Settlement Agreement, these leaders have had to make some very hard calls.  But they have always put the people of Cleveland first, and we look forward to continuing to work with the mayor, his staff and the Division of Police in the years to come.  Finally, I want to thank the people of Cleveland.  Over the past two years, we have gotten to know many of you as you have worked with us in this process.  Ultimately, this day, and this Settlement Agreement, is for you.

Today’s agreement reflects a commitment by the City and the Division of Police to work with the Department of Justice and the Cleveland community to transform this police agency into a model of community-oriented policing that will make both police officers and the people they serve safer.  The investigative team reviewed thousands of pages of documents, including written policies and procedures, training materials, use-of-force reports, video footage and investigative files.  The Department of Justice team also spoke with hundreds of community members and leaders, including representatives from the faith-based community, mental health professionals, advocates for the homeless and civil rights organizations, as well as City leaders, police officers and supervisors and police union representatives.  These leaders and community members continued to provide critical input as we drafted the agreement that we announce today. 

Constitutional policing is key to building trust between police departments and the communities they serve.  As you know, the difficult task of rebuilding trust between police and the community is one that communities around the country are struggling with, and it is also one that is not new.  What is remarkable about Cleveland and this agreement is that it reflects the decision of community members, law enforcement leaders and city officials to do the difficult work required to address the systemic issues that can undermine cooperation between the police and large parts of the community, thereby reducing public safety. 

Today, Cleveland demonstrates to the rest of the country that people can come together across perceived differences to realize a common vision of a safer, more just city.

With this agreement, the City and the Division of Police agree to implement comprehensive reforms in the way that CDP recruits, selects, guides, trains, supervises, investigates and disciplines officers to ensure that officers are practicing constitutional, community-oriented policing, and that officers who fall short of this standard are held accountable.  I would like to highlight some of the provisions that make this agreement a real model for other communities seeking to address these issues and to rebuild trust with law enforcement around the country. 

I start with the provisions that provide officer assistance and support, and want to take this opportunity to speak directly to the men and women of the Cleveland Division of Police. The agreement we are announcing today reflects the fact that you are integral parts of the community.  You put your lives on the line each and every day, and ensure the safety of our communities.  Our investigation revealed that you are being asked to do this tremendously difficult work without adequate policy guidance, training, supervision or other support and, importantly, in some cases without adequate equipment.  The agreement includes many key provisions intended to address your needs and provide you with what you need to do your job.  Following a comprehensive equipment and resource study to assess current needs and priorities to perform the functions necessary for CDP to fulfill its mission, CDP will develop an Equipment and Resource Plan for necessary equipment, including computers and safe vehicles, to submit to the independent monitor.  CDP will actively seek input and feedback from the Commission, patrol officers and supervisors regarding resource allocation, equipment needs and technological improvements.

In addition to policies and procedures and additional training to better support officers in the field, CDP will implement an effective employee assistance program that provides officers ready access to the mental health and support resources necessary to facilitate effective and constitutional policing.

To community leaders, many of whom have made significant sacrifices for the good of your city, I thank you for ensuring that the provisions addressing community engagement and community oversight of your police department are effective and meaningful.  The new Community Police Commission, representing the city’s many communities, including faith-based organizations, civil rights advocates, police unions, the business/philanthropic community and youth organizations, will work with the Division of Police to improve community policing, bias-free policing and transparency.  Community participation is now key to the development of many important polices, including those related to use of force and search and seizure.

The agreement also strengthens civilian oversight structures to ensure that civilian complaints of police misconduct are thoroughly and effectively investigated and that officers are held accountable for misconduct.  And the agreement calls for the placement of a civilian at the head of Internal Affairs to help ensure that internal investigations of misconduct are reliable.  The Division of Police must also create a Mental Health Response Advisory Committee that will foster relationships and build support between police, the community and mental health providers.  The Division of Police will ensure all officers receive core training in responding to individuals in crisis, and Specialized Crisis Intervention Trained officers will receive advanced training. 

The agreement’s mechanisms to ensure that CDP delivers bias-free policing services and conducts searches and seizures in accordance with the Constitution and state and federal law include broad data collection and analysis so CDP’s activities are transparent and can be assessed as to whether they are administered without bias.  And community participation in the development of training related to bias-free policing is a model that ensures that the policing practices reflect Cleveland’s community values and priorities.  Building on important changes the division has already made to some of its use-of-force policies, the agreement requires the division to provide improved training and guidance on when and how officers may use force.  Officers must use de-escalation techniques, rather than force, whenever possible.  The Division will also improve the investigatory process following an officer’s use of force to ensure officers are using force appropriately.  In addition, if force is used, officers will immediately provide emergency first aid as necessary. 

Strengthened reporting and supervision requirements, along with broad data collection, including whether an officer has unholstered a firearm during an encounter with someone, will help CDP continue to revise, develop and implement force policies, training, supervision and accountability systems.

Thanks to tremendous cooperation from the City, the Division of Police and the community, we reached an agreement within a mere five months following the announcement of our findings—an unprecedented pace for putting together a comprehensive plan to reform a major metropolitan police department.  As the leaders of this great city, you have all demonstrated over the last several months a willingness to engage in the serious discussions with community leaders to ensure that the exercise of this power must be measured not only against legal standards, but community values and community priorities. 

While the City and the Division of Police have already started the hard work of reform, implementation will take sustained work and will not happen overnight.  It will require the continued engagement and commitment of all who have a stake in Cleveland.  This court enforceable agreement will not terminate until a federal district judge has confirmed through the independent monitor that the requirements of the agreement have been effectively implemented and the city has demonstrated that it can sustain compliance.  But let me be clear—in light of the work that brought us to this day, I am deeply optimistic that transformation is coming to Cleveland. 

There is much work to be done, across the nation and in Cleveland, to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve where it has eroded, but it can be done.  Today's agreement may serve as a model for those seeking to address similar issues in their communities.  As we have done throughout the investigation and the negotiation of the agreement, we will continue to meet and work with the City, the Division of Police, community groups, faith-based organizations, the police unions, advocacy agencies and other stakeholders to ensure constitutional policing and a more just and safe City of Cleveland. 

Thank you.

Updated August 19, 2016