On Thursday afternoon, the Department of Justice released a report highlighting a pattern of incompetence among Cleveland's police officers. The report comes as the city receives national attention for the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice at the hands of a cop who had previously been deemed mentally unfit for the job.
The report reads: "We have concluded that we have reasonable cause to believe that the [Cleveland Division of Police] CDP engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We have determined that structural and systemic deficiencies and practices--including insufficient accountability, inadequate training, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community--contribute to the use of unreasonable force."
The Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly and Dana Liebelson report:
According to the DOJ report, Cleveland police officers "carelessly fire their weapons, placing themselves, subjects and bystanders at unwarranted risk of serious injury or death." For example, the agency pointed to an incident in 2011 where officers "fired 24 rounds in a residential neighborhoods [sic]," with six rounds striking houses and 14 hitting parked cars. In another case, "An officer's decision to draw his gun while trying to apprehend an unarmed hit-and-run suspect resulted in him accidentally shooting the man in the neck."
The Justice Department also claimed to have identified "several cases" where "officers shot or shot at people who did not pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or others." For example, in 2013, the report noted that police shot at a victim who had been kidnapped by armed assailants after he fled the house in his boxers. The sergeant believed that the victim had a weapon because he raised his hand.
At a press conference, the DOJ announced a joint program with the city to establish a body to monitor the Cleveland Division of Police.
"Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments, and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve," said Attorney General Eric Holder at the conference. “Although the issues in Cleveland are complex, and the problems longstanding, we have seen in city after city where we have been engaged that meaningful change is possible. There are real, practical and concrete measures that can be taken to ensure not only that police services are delivered in a constitutional manner, but that promote public safety, officer safety, confidence and collaboration, transparency, and legitimacy.”