Cleveland Releases After-action Report on May 30 Protest, Unrest
A review of the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) response to protests in Downtown Cleveland May 30 identified a lack of preparation, resources and management as the protests devolved into a violent clash.
The city released the 39-page after-action report, lead by a retired Ohio Highway Patrol lieutenant, six months after the demonstration against police brutality, which led to violence and property destruction.
The report includes an analysis of police reports, body camera footage, radio communications and other data collected from the protests.
Police Chief Calvin Williams said in a press conference Thursday with Mayor Frank Jackson and Public Safety Director Karrie Howard that the city sees the events of the demonstration as a learning experience about where and how to deploy resources.
Still, the CDP would have needed to deploy every officer to the Downtown area in order to change the outcome of the protests, Williams said, and that wasn’t an option.
“That’s where a majority of the resources for the protest were centered,” Williams said. “But we still had officers in all five neighborhood policing districts of the city, doing day-to-day operations.”
He defended police response, saying officers did what they could to handle the initial demonstration and resulting unrest.
“For what went on that day, and what the officers were faced with, being attacked, I think the officers did a very good job,” Williams said.
Black Lives Matter Cleveland President Latonya Goldsby disagreed, saying the protest was peaceful until CDP officers escalated the situation.
“Folks that were engaged with the protest were actually participating in an active grief process along with the expectations of our city doing the right thing,” Goldsby said. “And they didn’t. They totally did the complete opposite of what community policing looks like.”
Eight complaints were lodged against police officers through the Internal Affairs Unit, Williams said, though one was redirected to the county sheriff’s department. Three or four complaints were lodged against one officer, Williams said.
An additional 12 complaints were filed through the Office of Professional Standards, Williams said, which investigates citizen complaints. He did not have the status of those complaints.
He said the curfew enacted by Jackson aided in restoring peace to Downtown Cleveland. But the curfew faced criticism and a lawsuit in the days following the protest.
The city saw very few complaints about how the curfew was enforced, Jackson said.
“We did not violate anybody’s civil liberties,” Jackson said. “We enforced a curfew and were very clear, and as a matter of fact, I think we were very lenient in the enforcement of that.”
But Kareem Henton, Black Lives Matter Cleveland's lead organizer, said the city is refusing to take responsibility for its missteps during the protest.
“It’s hard to believe they’re actually going to approach any kind of changes or attempts to make things right, genuinely,” Henton said. “They investigate themselves and find that they have done nothing wrong, which is the norm, which is why we have to change so much in regards to community oversight of the actions of the police.”
The police should have done more to de-escalate the growing unrest, Henton said, rather than firing off pepper spray or tear gas that wounded some protesters. The issue was not in the deployment of resources, he said.
“When you talk about mistakes, mistakes were either in the training because officers were looking to hurt people, or training issues because they didn’t know any better,” Henton said. “There needs to be adequate disciplinary measures in place.”
He also criticized the curfew implemented by the city saying it was improperly enforced against people who were not violating it.
“The fact is that you’re talking about people who had to sit in jail because officers did not use proper discernment,” Henton said. “They were hammers. They saw a nail, and they went to hammer it.”
Cuyahoga County released its own after-action report in October.
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