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Cleveland Officials: Police Are Being Retrained On Interacting With The Public

"This is a defining moment for Cleveland," Mayor Frank Jackson says of reform efforts. He's seen here at a news conference last month.
Tony Dejak
"This is a defining moment for Cleveland," Mayor Frank Jackson says of reform efforts. He's seen here at a news conference last month.

More than seven months after a Justice Department report on the Cleveland Police Department cited a "pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive force," city officials say officers are getting new training on both interacting with youths and the use of force.

The federal report was spurred by a string of claims that Cleveland's police used excessive force. It came out last December — one month after police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice at a public park. Rice had been playing with a pellet gun.

On Tuesday, a group that includes pastors, activists and others invoked an obscure law to accuse two police officers of crimes in Rice's death, as Eyder reported for the Two-Way.

On Wednesday, Mayor Frank Jackson said he sees the group's action as a sign of a lack of confidence in the system.

Jackson also said his city's deal with the Justice Department to reform its police department will be "historic." And he repeatedly said he wants the changes to take hold in the department's DNA, so they will outlive any leader's career.

Police Chief Calvin Williams said the department will "do more for our community."

The pair appeared at a news conference shortly before noon. Jackson said:

  • 30 days after a consent decree deal is approved, the city will start to set up a community policing commission, with members from the community and the police union.
  • 90 days after approval, a monitor will be chosen.
  • Williams said his officers and supervisors are undergoing training on community policing, and that more training is planned to take place this year.

    "Our model is CPR," Williams said, "and it stands for Community engagement, Professionalism and Respect."

    The police department will increase the level of scrutiny given to officers' interactions with the public, Williams said. And he spoke about the need to change officers' mindset.

    "In the past, our training has been along the lines of a warrior mentality," Williams said.

    The department wants its officers to be safe, the chief said, but he added that they need to see themselves not as warriors, but as guardians.

    "We are guardians of this community," he said. "And we are part of this community."

    At the end of Wednesday's news conference, the mayor said: "This is a defining moment for Cleveland. We will be defined by this."

    Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.

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