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Cleveland to Overhaul Police Department

  • VOA News

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, center, holds up the settlement agreement with the City of Cleveland a news conference, May 26, 2015, in Cleveland.

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach, center, holds up the settlement agreement with the City of Cleveland a news conference, May 26, 2015, in Cleveland.

The U.S. city of Cleveland has agreed to overhaul its police department under a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department that addresses a pattern of abuses detailed in a report last year.

The settlement, announced Tuesday at a news conference in Cleveland, is aimed at providing a road map for the city's police to change their practices, including minimizing racial bias and excessive force and creating better relations with communities.

The settlement, which is contained in a 105-page consent decree that requires the approval of a U.S. District Court judge, calls for Cleveland's police department to be tracked by an independent court-appointed monitor.

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach said the decree is "far more than talk" and builds on what is good for the department and aims to improve policing where it has fallen short.

The announcement comes three days after a judge acquitted a Cleveland police officer of manslaughter charges for fatally shooting an unarmed black couple after a lengthy chase in 2012. Cleveland has already paid each of the families of the victims, Timothy Russell and Melissa Williams, $1.5 million to settle wrongful death lawsuits

The case was the latest in the U.S. in which police officers have been accused of using excessive force in street incidents, killing unarmed black suspects.

Under the Cleveland settlement, the city must implement new policies requiring that any use of force is "proper and lawful," that officers receive "state-of-the-art" training in "the use of force and its lawful limits," and that all uses of police force are "properly and fully reported and reviewed."

Cleveland must also create a community police commission that works with enhanced neighborhood policing committees to provide "meaningful input into police matters."

There will also be an overhaul of machinery for investigating misconduct allegations, a modernization of police, and new training in avoiding racial stereotyping and dealing with the mentally ill.

Currently, authorities are investigating two high-profile cases in Cleveland involving the deaths of black people at the hands of police.

Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice who was playing with a replica gun when he was shot by Cleveland police responding to an emergency call about a man with a gun. He died a day after the shooting. Prosecutors are also investigating the death of Tanisha Anderson, who died while handcuffed in police custody last year. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide, citing her physical restraint by police as well as her mental illness and a heart condition.

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