Jackson Gets Aggressive, Wants Media to Acknowledge Administration's Efforts Toward Reform

click to enlarge Snagging some Jackson pics. - SAM ALLARD / SCENE
Sam Allard / Scene
Snagging some Jackson pics.
In a two-hour press conference at City Hall Friday morning, Mayor Frank Jackson reiterated talking points that most of us have already heard in the ongoing use of force discussions related to the Cleveland Division of Police and the DOJ report.

But Jackson also urged the gathered media to change, or at least broaden, their published perspectives on his administration. He insisted that police reform has been on his mind "constantly" since long before he took office. 

He didn't address current consent decree negotiations in any detail, other than to say that they were ongoing and that there was no deadline in place — "I feel a sense of urgency to do it right," Jackson said, when asked if he's feeling any urgency about finalizing a settlement. "I'm not going to sacrifice doing it right just to meet a timetable."

But distressingly, it didn't sound like much progress had been made. It sounded like they're still sort of in the interminable "let's figure out what's accurate and what's not accurate" phase. Jackson said he thought discussions were moving "in the right direction," but that a lot more dialoguing would be necessary.

The upshot is, we shouldn't be expecting anything anytime soon, not when Jackson is intent on producing "substantive, institutionalized" reform that'll outlive his tenure as mayor. 

"This is our greatest opportunity to make reform in an accelerated way," he said, referencing the consent decree. Except it's unclear whether or not the police-specific settlement agreement is even a suitable venue to address the bigger-picture criminal-justice issues which Jackson keeps saying are the underlying problems.  
Reform, though — and this was the thrust of the presser — is nothing new to Jackson. He presented an exhaustive timeline of the city's (and his own) efforts to curtail excessive force within the CDP, beginning in 1993 when he and councilwoman Fannie Lewis introduced legislation to ban the choke hold as a police submission tactic. 

He reviewed highlights since the DOJ's investigation in 2002 — revised manuals, crisis intervention training, equipment upgrades — and emphasized the dramatic reduction in use of force statistics across the board between 2006 and 2014. In 2006, for instance, Cleveland Police used "less lethal force" on 885 occasion. In 2014, there were only 405 instances of less lethal force. Uses of deadly force dropped from 31 in '06 to 16 in '14.  

"The point I'm making is that we weren't wasting our time," Jackson said. "We weren't sitting on our hands. We did not have our head in the ground. We work on this constantly. We took aggressive action and it was based on what was analyzed and what we knew we needed."

That said, Jackson made clear, there is still much to be done. He stressed getting the body camera program online in each of the City's five police districts (they're already in use in the 4th), transparency and community policing, via a pilot program to be developed by City Council.