The administration of Cleveland Mayor Justin Bibb announced Wednesday the creation of a Police Accountability Team (PAT) to oversee the implementation of the Consent Decree, the 2015 negotiated agreement between the city and the Department of Justice stemming from a pattern of unconstitutional policing.
The goal of the PAT, ultimately, will be to end the Consent Decree via successful long-term compliance with its terms. The new PAT will therefore work with the Division of Police to review policies, conduct audits and make recommendations to satisfy the DOJ's mandates.
"The safety of our neighbors and our community is our number one priority,” said Bibb, in a press release. "We support our police, and this team will help ensure that the improvements we have made become permanent parts of our culture of service, safety and accountability."
The announcement comes as Cleveland City Council interviews finalists for the Community Police Commission, a creation of Issue 24, which Cleveland voters overwhelmingly passed at the ballot box in 2021. The commission will have final say over police conduct investigations and disciplinary decisions, and will be empowered to subpoena documents as part of those investigations. It will also oversee matters related to police training and recruitment.
Issue 24 was successfully integrated into the Consent Decree in March of this year, when the city and the DOJ jointly filed an amendment to include it as Charter Section 115.
Police reform was a focus for Bibb on the campaign trail last summer. In his first eight months in office, among other things, he has encouraged the expanded use of the county diversion center for non-violent offenses, attempted to expunge the records of those convicted of marijuana possession and, in his recent ARPA spending plan, proposed expanding the division's crisis intervention team. In recent national media appearances, Bibb has aligned himself with President Joe Biden, arguing passionately that elected Democrats can be both "pro police" and "pro accountability."
The staff size of the PAT is for the moment unknown, but Bibb and co. are currently seeking candidates to serve as Executive Director, a position that will be tasked with assembling a team of professionals with experience in law enforcement and community engagement.
“We are focused on making Cleveland a national model for police reform," Bibb said. "Right now, we have multiple layers and mechanisms for oversight. Moving forward, we are focused on implementing lasting, sustained change under the consent decree as we shift towards independent oversight."
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