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Cleveland Police Monitor Criticizes May 30 Use Of Force Oversight

The Cleveland Division of Police’s (CDP) use of force reporting and community engagement before and during the May 30 social justice protest in Downtown Cleveland are under scrutiny by the federal monitor overseeing the city’s police reform efforts.

In a review of 29 officers’ use of force reports from May 30, the monitor found officers didn’t record the quantity of non-lethal munitions that were fired, making it hard to evaluate whether excessive force was used.

“To be clear, the policies that guide reporting and review were not followed, which is simply not compliant with the consent decree,” Deputy Monitor Brian Maxey told the district court judge overseeing the consent decree, Solomon Oliver, during a Wednesday hearing. “Force reporting must be timely, thorough and conclusive.”

Of the 29 reports, 13 were filed long after the deadline in police policy, with the last one filed in September.

Maxey also noted the reporting on use of force was often vague and many officers did not wear body cameras so the monitor could not come to any conclusions on individual incidents.

The monitor’s office also criticized the Cleveland Division of Police’s After Action Report on May 30th for focusing on whether protesters provoked a response and the small number of serious injuries, instead of whether officers were following use of force policies.

The City of Cleveland responded by saying it was a complex, unique situation that led to those shortcomings. Chief of Police Calvin Williams said what happened May 30th meant the policies on use of force reports did not apply.

“As stated in our after action report, the division has formed a committee to address the reporting requirements of a riot situation versus simply a demonstration event,” Williams said.

That distinction did not convince members of the monitoring team.

“Just labeling something a riot does not actually change the constitutional obligations,” Maxey said.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver sought middle ground Wednesday, saying circumstances like the May 30th protests allowed for extra time for reporting and the two sides should figure out workable policies.

Another prominent criticism in the monitor’s report focused on the division’s community outreach efforts.

“Had CDP fully committed to community engagement and communication, it would have had better access to sources of information about what was likely to transpire on May 30, 2020,” the report said.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the monitor went on to say that those engagement efforts will be a priority during the next six months, pointing specifically to strengthening the Cleveland Community Police Commission and District Policing Committees.

“I think this is critical,” Oliver said, near the end of Wednesday’s hearing. “The whole notion of community engagement is built in in several places [of the consent decree]. It’s part of the concept of building the trust and the dignity in the community.”

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