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Monday, July 13, 2020

Consent Decree Monitor Says McGrath was Consistently Too Lenient with Police Discipline

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2020 at 4:27 PM

click to enlarge (from left to right): Euclid mayor Bill Cervenik, county prosecutor Tim McGinty, Mike McGrath, FBI special agent Stephen Anthony, Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area director Derek Siegle - DOUG BROWN/CLEVELAND SCENE
  • Doug Brown/Cleveland Scene
  • (from left to right): Euclid mayor Bill Cervenik, county prosecutor Tim McGinty, Mike McGrath, FBI special agent Stephen Anthony, Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area director Derek Siegle

In a memo to U.S. District Court Judge Solomon Oliver Monday, the Cleveland Consent Decree Monitor said that former Safety Director Michael McGrath had been too lenient in doling out punishment for police misconduct.

Having reviewed 39 cases of officer discipline from March, 2018, through May, 2020, Monitor Hassan Aden said that not only did McGrath consistently impose punishments on the low end of the s0-called "disciplinary matrix," he failed to sufficiently document his rationale for these decisions, even after being instructed to do by the monitoring team.

The report found that McGrath's failure to consistently impose proper discipline, and to do so in a timely manner, was preventing the reestablishment of trust between the police and the community, one of the central goals of the Consent Decree. 

McGrath resigned abruptly last month due to what he called "personal and unavoidable circumstances." He has been replaced, in an interim capacity, by Karrie Howard, formerly a city prosecutor who retains close ties to Mayor Frank Jackson.

The report was the first review of officer discipline as meted out by the Safety Director. It focused on McGrath, as opposed to Chief Calvin Williams, because in Cleveland, serious discipline (anything more than a 10-day suspension), must be authorized by the Safety Director.

The findings, in aggregate, were serious indictments of McGrath's judgement and performance. They included McGrath's abiding preference for suspensions over terminations, even when terminations were advised in the court-approved disciplinary matrix. They also featured a systematic failure to impose serious discipline for integrity-related offenses.

Fully 50 percent of the cases reviewed involved deception, the report stated, yet in only three of them was an officer terminated. In all 23 of these cases, officers "either knowingly and intentionally lied to or withheld information from" Internal Affairs, the Office of Professional Standards, police command staff or a judge. In the Consent Decree's revised disciplinary matrix, untruthfulness now carries a presumption of termination.

"Going forward," the memo stated, "the issues raised by these cases suggest that substantial progress must still be made by the City to achieve compliance with the Settlement Agreement with respect to accountability, transparency and officer discipline." 

Accountability has long been an issue for the police department Michael McGrath oversaw as Chief and then as Safety Director. Mayor Frank Jackson, however, recently defended his promotion of McGrath in 2014, insisting that without McGrath, in the aftermath of #137shots, there would have been no police accountability at all.

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