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Crime and Courts


U.S. Justice Department will investigate Cleveland police
Civil rights investigation is civil, not criminal, and will coincide with local and state investigations of the Nov. 29th chase and shooting
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach says the investigation will go beyond the chase and shootout on Nov. 29th.
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In The Region:

The U.S. Justice Department is launching an investigation of the Cleveland Police Department, including the shooting of two unarmed people last November. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze has more on this morning’s announcement.

SCHULTZE: Justice announced federal investigation

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The investigation by the Justice Department’s civil rights division will focus on whether the Cleveland Police Department has a “pattern and practice” of using excessive force. It’s being launched under a nearly two-decades-old law and at the request of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson.

U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach notes that the investigation is civil.

“The end goal of this investigation -- if it is determined that there is some issue that needs to be addressed -- is not to file criminal charges, but to create sustainable, widespread reforms within the Cleveland department of police.”

If investigators find no systemic problems, Dettelbach says, they’ll tell the public. If they find patterns and practices, they’ll work on reforms.

It's bigger than Nov. 29th
The call for the investigation followed a controversial chase that involved more than 100 officers and ended with the shooting of two unarmed people on Nov. 29th. But Dettelbach says the investigation goes beyond that.

“When you’re talking about pattern or practice, it’s not simply one incident. It’s looking at a series of incidents to determine whether it is in the interest of justice to conduct that full investigation.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez says investigators will welcome the input of rank and file cops as well as members of the community.

“This work is not easy and the independent review is very critical to ensuring and preserving trust between a police department and the community.”

Systemic problems; systemic changes
Mayor Frank Jackson says the city is not interested in just another report.

 “If there are things that are found that are suggestions to us that we need to do better in areas than we will gladly change because our goal is to have a professional police division and to have confidence between that division and the public that they are there to serve.”

 Neither Perez nor Dettelbach gave any timeline for the investigation. But similar reviews in other cities have taken a year to 18 months. The result is often a consent decree overseen by a federal judge. 

(Click image for larger view.)

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