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Cleveland Police Voice Reservations Over Consent Decree

Cleveland police officers say the city’s reform agreement with the Justice Department has left them confused about what’s acceptable in the field.

That’s a conclusion from a series of focus groups conducted by the team monitoring the consent decree. Read the full report here.

The monitoring team held eight focus groups in December last year, involving 68 officers and detectives and 10 sergeants. There was one all-white group and one all-nonwhite group.

The report said officers feel the brass lead “through discipline” after the fact, leaving police uncertain how much force they’re allowed to use when confronting suspects.

“Conversations that took place during the eight focus groups made clear that there is a great deal of concern, anxiety and misinformation related to CDP’s new use of force policy,” the team wrote, “particularly with respect to corresponding discipline and accountability procedures.”

The monitoring team wrote that “growing pains” are normal during police reform and that officers’ fears often diminish as they become more familiar with new policies. But the team said low morale and a disconnect with the administration are “a source for serious concern.”

Police said they had neither the staff nor the time to form meaningful relationships with the community, according to the report. Officers said they had good relationships with seniors and business owners, but not with young people.

There were bright spots. The report said officers have better information now that computers are in more cars. It also said police appeared to appreciate use of force training last year and want more training in the future.

“Many concerns are to be expected given that CDP is still very much in the middle of the reform process,” the monitoring team wrote, adding, “The hope is that, when officers participate in these same focus groups in the future, there will be positive change and progress.”

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