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Monday, May 11, 2015

Officers' 'Reverse Racism' Lawsuit Will Force City To Release Five Years of Cleveland Police Shooting, Discipline Records

Posted By on Mon, May 11, 2015 at 5:15 PM


In November, nine of the 13 Cleveland police officers who shot Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012 filed a federal lawsuit against the city and department leaders alleging discrimination (see our reporting on that). The group — including eight white and one Hispanic officer — say they were treated harsher (extended gym duty and a longer "cooling off period," for example) for shooting black people than when black officers shoot black people.

It's already a contentious case, full of bickering and heated legal filings that will surely take years to wrap up. But for as tone-deaf as the lawsuit is — it was filed just days after Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot and killed Tamir Rice and just before the Department of Justice released a summary of their damning investigation into the department — even more information showing the inner workings of how the Cleveland Police Department reacts following police-involved shootings will be included in the court file (these records are already public record, technically, but it takes months and months for a reporter to get records on even a single shooting).

Lawyers for the officers initially asked for the city to release 13 years of police shooting records — including the ethnicity of the police officer who shot and their discipline and/or reassignment records following that. The lawyers are trying to find correlation between the race of the officers who shoot black people and what happens to them afterwards to prove that these "non-African American" officers were treated slightly worse when they shot black people.

A federal judge initially ruled last month that the department must provide shooting records (including the race of the officer) and disciplinary records for police shootings that resulted in death for the past five years. But after a motion filed by the officers' lawyer, a judge ruled that last week that records of police shootings that didn't result in death will be included, too.

The records will come from police shootings between Nov. 2007 and Nov. 2012.

In another filing in April, the officers, including some who refused to to testify in the trial against their colleague Michael Brelo, squarely place blame on Brelo saying their own shots did "no harm." Filed in the midst of the Brelo trial is this:

The plaintiffs' use of deadly force resulted in no harm much less death. They are similarly situated to a larger number of officers who have used deadly force and who did not cause harm. They are not similarly situated with officers who used deadly force but caused physical injury.

The plaintiffs' were involved in a lengthy pursuit on November 29, 2012. They all discharged their weapons. The discharge was justifiable according to the report issued by the Ohio Attorney General. One officer involved in the pursuit and who is not a plaintiff in this case [Michael Brelo] fatally injured two people. His conduct was determined not to be acceptable under the circumstances. He is facing a criminal trial at this time for manslaughter.

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