Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Forrest, Bull Mastiff at Center of 2013 Animal Cruelty Case, Has Died

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 8:59 AM

  • Forrest
Forrest, the bull mastiff who was found shot and chained to a tree in Cleveland Heights and who later became the centerpiece of an Ohio animal cruelty criminal case, died last weekend.

We published an extensive feature on the case in January 2013.

Robin Stone and Patti Harris adopted Forrest and gave him a tremendous life, often making him the star of their social media posts (which featured their other pets, as well).

He became a symbol, in many ways, of the long-running struggle to reform animal cruelty laws in Ohio. When Goddard's Law finally passed in 2016, making it a fifth-degree felony to "cause serious physical harm to a companion animal," Forrest was there.

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Federal Judge Puts Pressure on City for Backlog of Citizen Complaints Against Police

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 7:53 AM

Federal courthouse in downtown Cleveland - ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • Federal courthouse in downtown Cleveland
At the behest of U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver, the U.S. Department of Justice consent decree parties gathered on Tuesday to discuss the most glaring source of frustration in the 2015 agreement: the investigation of civilian complaints against Cleveland police. Hundreds of open complaints remain untouched, dating back to 2014 in some cases. Even with the addition of six temporary investigators at the Office of Professional Standards, which is tasked with processing those complaints, the backlog grows almost daily.

On Aug. 30, by way of illustration, the office had 401 open complaints from the past several years. As of this week, it had chiseled that backlog down to only 383. Matthew Barge, the consent decree monitor, said that the pace was "not even close" to where the office should be right now.

"The problem with OPS [is] it's not any better than it was two years ago when this process started, and it's not getting better," he said. "[This] systemic failure of the city of Cleveland has perpetuated over time, stemming back from the creation of the office in the 1980s."

Records from 2016 show that most of these complaints involve "lack of service" or "unprofessional behavior."

One complaint about an improper tow was received Feb. 3, 2016. It wasn't cleared until Feb. 15, 2017, at which time the complaint was "sustained in part" by investigator Anitra Merritt. And that's one of the rare closed cases in the hundreds of complaints on the OPS desk.

Leaving complaints uninvestigated or even partially investigated — and thus hanging over individual officers' heads — creates a sense of public rot. The word "fester" was used multiple times during the hearing, like when Barge said: "This has been festering for a long time. ... Officers and civilians deserve [a solution]."

The city has maintained that it's plagued by a lack of resources and by a sudden mandate to conform to new policies and best practices — that the matter of training is taking considerable amounts of time and keeping investigators from the actual work of investigating. But the federal oversight team wasn't having it; instead, Barge pointed out again and again that the city simply hasn't stepped up its game.

He referred to a November 2015 meeting with Damon Scott, who until recently led the OPS. During that conversation, at the outset of the consent decree, Barge and Scott discussed a computerized database that could be used to track and catalog complaints. Barge said the conversation was "in-depth." But as of today, OPS is still not using that system (which is the same system used by the police department's internal affairs unit, Barge pointed out).

"That's not a resource issue," he said. "That's a will issue. We need will and drive and urgency. ... This is not about resources. This is about leadership."

The city's law director, Barbara Langhenry, said that they will look to hire a senior investigator via a national search. The city is also hoping to find a permanent replacement for Scott; that job posting went up last week.

"It is our hope that there will not be a backlog this large going into the future," Langhenry said.

But since Aug. 30, OPS has been tasked with achieving at least 2.5 new investigations per month per investigator (or five "backlog" investigations per month). Even that modest goal hasn't been reached, with only 38 investigations being closed in that time frame, Barge said. And of those 38, 66 percent of them were "non-compliant" in how they were carried out.

This week's hearing had a back-to-the-drawing-board feel to it. Despite Oliver praising certain segments of the consent decree, he insisted that this problem has grown dire.

"If we can't make more progress than this, frankly I'd be looking for a different kind of hearing — one where we'd more adversarial," Oliver said. "And I don't mean that in a bad way — [but] one where we can be more formal." He hinted at the potential need for testimony from Public Safety Director Michael McGrath, who was present today.

"I look to the city to take the lead in coming up with standards and resolution of this issue," Oliver said. "This has to be one of the highest priorities in the area of the consent decree. This is one that we cannot let fester."

The hearing wrapped up with a plan to meet again in mid-December with a more concrete plan of action.

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Beachland to Host Opioid Awareness Benefit Concert

Posted By on Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 7:20 AM

  • Gaetano’s Underworld
Five local blues bands will perform at the Blues vs. Opiods Awareness Benefit Concert, an upcoming event at the Beachland Ballroom that's designed to help fight the opioid crisis.

The concert has an educational element to it as well. Speakers include the following: Dr. Teresa Dews from Cleveland Clinic Pain Management; Stanley Stone, a former addict who's currently an interventionist/drug counselor; Rose Deroia, a pharmacist who lost her son to opioid addiction; Ohio CAN's (Change Addiction Now) Anna Szinko; and Maple Heights Police Chief John Popielarczyk, who will speak and also perform.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Indie Rockers Pinegrove Drop Off Snowed In Bill After Sexual Coercion Allegations

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 4:41 PM

After Pinegrove singer Evan Stephens Hall, who says he committed an act of "sexual coercion," issued a lengthy apology for his actions on the indie rock band’s Facebook site earlier today, the band has canceled its fall tour.

It will no longer perform as part of the Snowed In festival that takes place on Saturday at the Agora Theatre, and Hall has said the group intends to take a lengthy break.

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In Advance of Janet Jackson’s Concert at the Q, Producer Jimmy Jam Talks About the R&B Singer’s Legacy

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 4:00 PM

  • Live Nation
James Samuel “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Steven Lewis, the American R&B production team that worked behind-the-scenes to turn Janet Jackson albums such as Control and Rhythm Nation 1814 into monster hits and reunited with Jackson for 2015’s Unbreakable, first met in the early ‘70s at a summer program at the University of Minnesota called Upward Bound.

“We were studying to be peer teachers,” says Harris during a phone interview to promote Jackson’s tour that comes to Quicken Loans Arena at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3. “The concept was that if you learned math you would teach the grade below you math, and it would be easier for the kids to understand. I was always a good student, but I was horrible at math, and I had no clue why they chose me for the program. I was happy that they did. It gave me a better understanding of math. Even better, I met Terry."

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Jeff Follmer Wins Election and Returns as President of Cleveland Police Union, Ousting Steve Loomis

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 1:09 PM

  • Follmer
In a 387-349 vote, the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association voted former president Jeff Follmer back into the presidency this week. Steve Loomis will return to his detective work in the Third District.

It's an instance of history repeating itself at CPPA, as Follmer beat Loomis in a 2011 vote. Then, in 2014, Loomis beat Follmer.

This week, Follmer beat Loomis again.

We summarized Follmer's 2014 departure, which was marked by the shooting death of Tamir Rice and a Follmerish rant against former Browns WR Andrew Hawkins. “It’s pretty pathetic when athletes think they know the law," he said at the time, referencing Hawkins' shirt, which read "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III."

A statement from Steve Loomis on the results is below.

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Exercise/Activity Heatmap Shows Just How Much Cleveland Uses the Metroparks

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 1:02 PM


Pulling together some 10 terabytes of raw data, including 1 billion sporting activities covering 27 billion kilometers over 200,000 aggregate years, Strava, which makes apps that allow users to track exercise and activity, put together an updated global activity heatmap.

There's a detailed blog covering some of the more unique and interesting plot points gathered from Strava users (the course for the marathon in Antarctica, Burning Man, the channel between England and France, the Ironman Kona Swim in Hawaii) that you should absolutely explore. For our purposes though, a quick zoom in on Northeast Ohio reveals a burning white necklace around Cleveland. That's the Emerald Necklace (Cleveland Metroparks), of course, easily highlighted as the most active path(s) in the city.

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