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U.S. Attorney Steven M. Dettelbach of the Northern District of Ohio Delivers Remarks Announcing a Settlement Agreement with the Justice Department Over the Pattern or Practice Investigation into the Cleveland Division of Police


Cleveland, OH
United States

Remarks as prepared for delivery

Good afternoon.  I am honored to be here with Mayor Jackson, Vanita Gupta, the head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, and Chief Calvin Williams to announce a historic agreement that will transform the way that the City of Cleveland will be policed for years to come.

Although it has been over two years, this is not the first time that we have stood together.  We stood together in 2013 to announce that the Department of Justice was opening an investigation – one that was caused by a series of incidents and requested by the Mayor and others – into whether the Cleveland Division of Police engaged in a pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.

Then we stood together again last December to publicly present the Department of Justice’s detailed Findings and to announce that – even on that difficult day – we remained dedicated to working in partnership to improve community police relations and to make policing safer, Constitutional and more effective in this city.

At each and every step, as this group stood together, we never stood alone.  Before, during and after our investigation we have received an outpouring of support, information and partnership from the people of this great community.  From City Hall to police union halls; from boardrooms to living rooms to squad rooms; from Churches to bar associations – and even just plain bars – you have shared with us your stories, your passions, your insights and, most important, your ideas for how to bring this community together and improve police-community relations.

And we have listened.  Let me say that again because it really is the key.  We have listened as a Department and as a City.  Listened to each other.  Listened to people with whom we agree and listened to people with whom we disagree, sometimes strongly.  Because these are difficult and critical issues and there is disagreement on how is the best way to reach our goals.

Mayor – that is a lesson I have learned from you over these last difficult months – that some of us need to talk less and we all need to listen more to the many voices of our community and nation.  That is leadership.  Thank you.

Now, today, the Department of Justice and the City of Cleveland are speaking.  We are speaking side-by-side and together for everyone to hear.  To hear what can be accomplished when a community listens and stands together for progress even in the face of difficult times. 

We have signed and are filing a 105-page, comprehensive Consent Decree that, once approved, will not only serve as a roadmap for reform in Cleveland but as a national model for any police department ready to escort a great city to the forefront of the 21st Century.  And even though we are speaking, what is being announced today is far more than just talk.

This Consent Decree has detailed provisions that will transform this police department, by building on the best of what already exists – and there is much that is good – and working to improve policing in areas that have lagged behind.  The provisions of this agreement will help ensure the many brave men and women of the Cleveland Division of Police can do their jobs not only constitutionally, but also more safely and effectively.

Some examples of the areas covered by today’s comprehensive decree, which Ms. Gupta will explain in more detail, are as follows:

  • Use of Force:  The Cleveland Division of Police will establish, train on and implement new policies that require: (1) that any use of force is proper and lawful, (2) that officers receive state of the art training on the use of force and its lawful limits, and (3) that all officer uses of force are properly and fully reported and reviewed.

  • Community Engagement and Policing:  The CDP will establish a City-wide Community Police Commission that will work with enhanced neighborhood policing committees to provide meaningful input into police matters.  The CDP will work side-by-side with these groups, made up of both police and community members to establish a comprehensive community policing plan.

  • Support, Equipment and Resources:  Working with line officers and community members, CDP will complete and submit both equipment and staffing plans to ensure that its officers are properly resourced.  For instance, CDP will modernize its IT abilities and improve its early intervention program to make sure that the men and women of the CDP are poised to succeed in the 21st century.

  • Accountability:  The City will both reform existing watchdog offices and form new ones to ensure that all allegations of officer misconduct are fully, fairly and promptly investigated.  For instance, these reforms will include major revamps of the Office of Professional Standards and the Police Review Board, in addition to creating a new Police Inspector General appointed by the Mayor and requiring that going forward there is a well-qualified civilian overseeing CDP’s Internal Affairs Unit.
  • Bias Free Policing:  The CDP will adopt policies and train its officers to minimize the opportunity for the use of racial and other improper stereotypes in policing, including training on cultural competency and avoiding implicit biases.  The City will also collect and analyze data on its stops, searches and seizures aimed at identifying and eliminating any unconstitutional practices or actions in this area.

  • Crisis Intervention:  The CDP will work side-by-side with leaders in the mental health community, including a new Mental Health Advisory Committee, to train its officers on dealing safely with people in crisis.  CDP will name a senior officer to be the Crisis Intervention Coordinator and will develop a plan to ensure that specialized crisis intervention trained officers are available to respond city-wide, and 24/7 to all incidents that involve people in crisis.

Under the agreement, all of these reforms will be completed under the watch of an independent monitor.  The Decree will only terminate after the City can demonstrate to a federal judge sustained and substantial compliance with its terms – and there are certain specific metrics set forth for that.

Compliance with this agreement – which means taking on systemic change – will be hard work.  And just as the commercial says, there is only one way to accomplish this work going forward – together.  That does not just mean the people and groups at this podium.

And so today I am also issuing a call to action to our entire community to support this hard work, together. 

Today we are seeing courage and leadership worthy of more than just lip service.  So together, we need to step up, to keep it up to ensure the future success of this effort. 

Different people can support this transformation in different ways.  Community members can support this effort by continuing to be engaged and giving their time and their innovative ideas to help improve policing and community-police relations.  Community leaders can set a tone of dialogue and partnership, encouraging residents to be respectful of the incredibly difficult job that the vast majority of police officers do with honor and distinction. 

Police officers can continue to strive for excellence, and police leaders can continue to raise up that excellence.  They also must be open to the honest truth that as long as police officers are human, they will not always reach that standard, and those who might criticize the police are not the enemy, they are a part of the community that the police serve and to whom they should listen.

And the wonderful business, civic and philanthropic community in this City and in this State, which have had so much constructive to say about the need for this type of reform, need to step up as well.  To these leaders, I say that this effort needed your support before and now, with a specific plan in place, it needs you more than ever to support the implementation of that plan.

With today’s agreement, the Department of Justice and the City have come together to position this community for long term, positive transformation.  This community has been there all along the way, but we need you more than ever to turn today’s promise into tomorrow’s reality.  Together. Thank you.

I now have the honor to introduce our nation’s leading civil rights federal law enforcement official, the head of the Civil Rights Division and a tremendous supporter of this City and this effort, Vanita Gupta.

Updated May 26, 2015