clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Federal investigation: Cleveland police are poorly trained and inappropriately violent

US Attorney General Eric holder speaks to media.
US Attorney General Eric holder speaks to media.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images
  1. A federal investigation found the Cleveland Police Department consistently engages in a pattern of excessive use of force as a result of inadequate training and supervision, US Attorney General Eric Holder announced on Thursday.
  2. The announcement came less than two weeks after a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was carrying a toy gun.
  3. Cleveland police officers often cause situations to unnecessarily escalate, according to the investigation.
  4. The investigation found that some searches and seizures carried out by Cleveland police may violate the Fourth Amendment, but that issue will require further review.
  5. An independent monitor will oversee reforms, with support from the US Department of Justice.

The investigation found excessive use of force in many instances

Cleveland Police car

Stefan Hlabse/AFP via Getty Images

A Cleveland Police car. (Stefan Hlabse / AFP via Getty Images)

The Department of Justice investigation found Cleveland police officers used excessive deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons; unnecessary, excessive, and retaliatory force, including Tasers, chemical sprays, and their fists; and excessive force against people with mental illness or in crisis, including one situation in which officers were called exclusively to check up on someone's welfare.

Police officers also used "poor and dangerous tactics" that often put them "in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable and places officers and civilians at unnecessary risk," according to the report.

The Justice Department attributed many of these problems to inadequate training and supervision. "Supervisors tolerate this behavior and, in some cases, endorse it," the report said. "Officers report that they receive little supervision, guidance, and support from the Division, essentially leaving them to determine for themselves how to perform their difficult and dangerous jobs."

Holder argued that fixing these issues is crucial for both the general public and police. "Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments, and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve," he said.

A Cleveland police officer shot and killed Tamir Rice less than two weeks ago

Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann shot Tamir Rice, a black 12-year-old boy who was carrying a toy gun, on November 22 in a park. Rice died the following day.

The federal investigation didn't look into the Rice shooting.

A surveillance video released by police showed Loehmann shooting Rice within two seconds of getting out of his squad car. Loehmann's partner, Frank Garmback, remained at the wheel of the car, reported the Washington Post.

Rice had in his waistband an airsoft toy gun with the orange safety indicator removed, and police said that he reached for it after officers told him to raise his hands. Officers did not know the weapon was a toy at the time of the shooting, according to police.

Police arrived on the scene after receiving at least one 911 call. A caller told 911 dispatchers that a child is "pulling a gun in and out of his pants and pointing it at people." He later added, "It's probably fake." The callers' comments were not relayed to officers.

Read the full press release on the investigation from the Department of Justice

From reporter Rachel Dissell:

Read more
: Cleveland police shot and killed a black 12-year-old boy carrying a toy gun.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.