Mayor Bibb, It Is Time: Deploy the "Snow Patrol" Within the Cleveland Division of Police

click to enlarge Mayor Bibb, It Is Time: Deploy the "Snow Patrol" Within the Cleveland Division of Police
NPS/Neal Herbert, via Flickr, Licensed under Creative Commons

Twelve inches of snow in Cleveland is the amount that now evidently qualifies as apocalyptic. After Sunday night's dumping—an enormous, but not unprecedented accumulation—the city all but shut down. The RTA suspended bus and train service for the entire day as its vehicles were stuck and stranded across town, thus restricting travel for the thousands of Clevelanders who rely on public transit to get to work, (many of the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse event staff, for example), and those who ordinarily drive but dared not brave the perilous roads, or who couldn't extract their vehicles from on-street parking spots or their own impenetrable garages.

CMSD, which all indications suggest is on the brink of psychic collapse for reasons pertaining to Covid-19, was closed Tuesday and Wednesday because road and sidewalk conditions were still in such rough shape. Everyone has been advised to stay indoors when at all possible. 

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, roughly 70% of the city's ~10,000 streets had been plowed, according to the City. By Wednesday morning, that had risen to 90%, with the city saying it had plowed 265 of the total 292 subsections and that trucks were continuing to salt the main thoroughfares as plows finally reached languishing side streets.

As ideastream's Nick Castele noted, Bibb was communicative throughout Monday, alerting the press of the snow removal plans in the morning and sending out two robocalls throughout the day to update residents on plowing progress and urge them to stay inside.

But mountains of snow remain. Even as the streets have now been largely cleared, and warmer temperatures have begun to melt the most vertiginous embankments, walking anywhere is a challenge, even for the most mobile and appropriately outfitted Clevelanders. The situation at bus stops is a nightmare. Though the city said it had partnered with the Downtown Cleveland Alliance and that DCA's Ambassadors were hard at work shoveling around bus stops downtown Wednesday morning, no such fleet of hourly workers were thus engaged in the city's neighborhoods, where there are also bus stops and sidewalks.

Bibb and his newly minted COO, Bonnie Teeuwen, have promised to learn from this storm and be ready to employ best practices when the next major snowfall arrives. (They should also be ready for the terrifying pitches of ice that will no doubt arrive when the rain and melting snow refreeze overnight.) 

In this context, the Mayor  has a golden opportunity before him, one that aligns with his campaign messaging on public safety and one that would be extremely helpful: Deploy police officers working desk jobs and others who volunteer as a new, emergency snowmobile-riding tactical unit: the Snow Patrol. 

One of Bibb's key public safety gripes on the campaign trail was the misallocation of staffing resources within the Division of Police. He said that far too many officers are sitting behind desks and that they should be reassigned to foot patrols, increasing their visibility in Cleveland's neighborhoods and promoting a "community policing" model that is theoretically designed to build trust between residents and law enforcement.

Mr. Mayor, it is time. Scatter these desk cops to the snowy streets of Cleveland armed with ski goggles and shovels and salt. Charge them with clearing the driveways and walkways of the elderly and infirm, coordinating community plowing in areas far from the main thoroughfares, mini-plowing bike lanes, making clear and accessible RTA stops, and triaging as vehicles skid and slide through the elements.

Empower this Snow Patrol, working in tandem with the 24-hour snowplow operators, to work as winter meter maids as well, ticketing businesses who fail to clear the walkways in front of their establishments. Give them cool snowsuits and branded hats. While you're at it, discontinue the mounted unit—free the horses!—and don't bother buying a tank with ARPA dollars for crowd control. One more military-grade vehicle will only exacerbates tension between residents and the police.

Instead, order the snowmobiles! Order the shovels! Unleash the Snow Patrol.

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About The Author

Sam Allard

Sam Allard is the Senior Writer at Scene, in which capacity he covers politics and power and writes about movies when time permits. He's a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and the NEOMFA at Cleveland State. Prior to joining Scene, he was encamped in Sarajevo, Bosnia, on an...
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