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In a step toward accountability, the Cleveland City Council authorized yesterday the hiring of Hillard-Heintze, a Chicago-based security risk management and law enforcement consulting company, to begin working through nearly 380 complaints made to Cleveland's Office of Professional Standards about police officers, dating back to 2014 in some cases.
Even with the addition of six temporary investigators to the Office of Professional Standards back in 2017, tasked with processing those complaints, the backlog grows almost daily.
Following an investigation in 2014
, the U.S. Department of Justice found that there was reasonable cause to believe that there was a pattern and practice of excessive force in Cleveland that violated the U.S. constitution and federal law. At that time, the City of Cleveland and DOJ entered into an agreement that requires the Cleveland Division of Police (the "Division" or "CPD") to make a number of fundamental changes to its policies, practices, procedures, training, use of data and more.
The work is being undertaken as part of a settlement the city reached with the Justice Department to reform the police department. A Justice Department investigation said the office, which is under the city's Department of Public Safety but separate from the Division of Police, too often failed to properly investigate and handle citizen complaints of officer misconduct.
The complaints in question are non-criminal offenses made by police officers. Some of the complaints have been looked into but not completed, but many have never been touched. Records from 2016
show that most of these complaints involve "lack of service" or "unprofessional behavior."
The hiring of Hillard-Heintze
came in February to assist with the backlog, but city council rejected Mayor Frank Jackson's original plan to pay the company up to $1.2 million to address all of the complaints. City council countered the offer with $700,000 to review the cases, evaluate the steps necessary to move forward and estimate further costs to complete the work.
Realizing the situation is growing more and more dire by the day, Wednesday's ordinance approved Hillard-Heintze for a capped budget of $700,000. The fulfillment of clearing this backlog is part of a 2015 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
EDIT:: This article previously stated that the city council countered with an offer of $70,000, a number we had sourced from Cleveland.com This was a typographical error as it should have stated the more reasonable amount of $700,000.