Mayor: Consent Decree Action Under Way, 'Community Policing' the Name of the Game

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"There will be nothing spectacular here," Mayor Frank Jackson said to begin his press conference about the process of reform within the Cleveland Division of Police.

And there wasn't. But the consent decree is en route to implementation. Time tables are being constructed. The police chief noted that his division has been rewiring itself to focus on models of community policing (including training courses that began last summer). Community policing, if one were to home in on the crux of this thing, is almost a synonym for Cleveland's consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. 

"We want this not to be something that we just get past," Jackson said. "We want it to be part of the DNA." (He employed the DNA bit at least three times.)

Federal Judge Solomon Oliver has scheduled a preliminary status conference for Friday — a sort of overview-type hearing that will approve various timeframes and directions for consent decree implementation. 

Within 30 days after the approval, Jackson will appoint a panel that will select members for the Community Policing Commission. Those members will in turn work to make recommendations for community policing policies and actions.

Within 90 days, the city and the DOJ must select a monitor, who will ensure that the consent decree is being carried out appropriately. 

Right now, though, the city is still very much in the getting-into-the-process stage. Things like use-of-force investigations, crisis intervention training, "accountability," youth training programs: The consent decree outlines a great deal of specifics for how to address and improve these arenas. Jackson said that he'll update the press regularly — promising methodical, sometimes-not-very-exciting change throughout — with various portions of the consent decree action items.

On perhaps a less data-oriented note, Police Chief Calvin Williams addressed some of the mental underpinnings that have contributed to the rift between the Division of Police and its community, saying that the militarization of mindset and resources and tactics must be reversed.

"We've changed that philosophy from a warrior community to a guardian community," he said. 

One thing that has not yet been made clear is how the city will pay for this. Rich Exner at NEOMG had a great piece about the estimated costs, in which he looked back at public records from Seattle and New Orleans. In short, he wrote: "Just by adding up the easily quantifiable costs in the Cleveland agreement, it's easy to foresee ongoing labor costs of at least $3 million a year– or more than $30 million over 10 years – plus millions more in capital expenditures on things such as computers and police cars."

Jackson mostly balked at questions about money. He went back to the idea that the city will continue to function, the budget will be balanced — the sky will not fall amid this DOJ business! — and that, well, we'll figure it out along the way.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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