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Lawyers Keep an Eye on Police and Protesters During the Early Days of Cleveland's Consent Decree


  A group of people are showing up at protests around Cleveland in bright green hats and T-shirts. WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports that the gear intended to make it clear who they are and – as importantly – who they are not.

The National Lawyers Guild began observing protests in Cleveland even before the Republican National Convention began. Jacqueline Greene says the reason is to make it clear to both police and protesters that people with a background in constitutional law are watching.

The shirts also include the guild’s hotline number.

“And the hotline serves as a point for people to call in who have been arrested or have been detained and for their loved ones to call in to check on their welfare. We can convey messages, and mostly what we do is track people though the arrest system so we can make sure people don’t get lost in the jails.”

Greene says the lawyer-observers also can be witnesses in cases, pro bono lawyers and deterrents for ensure police don’t step over a constitutional policing line. She says the lawyers are especially concerned given that a consent decree to reform Cleveland’s police department is only about a year old.

The RNC and early days of the consent decree

“The Department of Justice found that the division of police engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional use of force. So we have a police force that lacks discipline and discretion in terms of how it uses force against people. And so we are concerned about how that may play out during the RNC because the reform process is still in its infancy.”

The guild also is concerned about the long-term implication of some $50 million spent on security for the RNC. Most of the equipment will remain after the convention leaves town.

M.L. Schultze is a freelance journalist. She spent 25 years at The Repository in Canton where she was managing editor for nearly a decade, then served as WKSU's news director and digital editor until her retirement.