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Officials Disagree Over Police Shooting on ‘Sound of Ideas’

Thursday, February 7, 2013 at 6:11 PM

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Cleveland leaders are still reeling from the findings of a state investigation into last November's police chase that ended with two suspects shot dead, and a lot of people pointing fingers. Attorney General Mike DeWine concluded the chase revealed "systemic failure" within the police department. The incident was the topic of discussion this morning on 90.3's the Sound of Ideas. ideastream's Nick Castele reports guests on the program had differing opinions about what exactly happened, what went wrong, and who deserves the blame.

Attorney General Mike DeWine said he doesn’t blame the officers for how the chase unfolded. He said the driver, who had alcohol and cocaine in his system, should have pulled over.

But DeWine reiterated his conclusion that department leadership is at fault for allowing 62 cars to join the chase—most without permission. And he said they’re also at fault for failing to control the final shooting when officers were put in the line of friendly fire.

DEWINE: “And for the chief to put his head in the sand and say we don’t have a systemic problem here, I think is just ignoring what clearly is the evidence. And the next time we’re liable to have someone else killed. We’re liable to have a police officer killed. We might have a bystander killed.”

Some Cleveland City Council members have criticized DeWine for releasing to the public his report on the pursuit and deadly shooting. DeWine said he did it because people have a right to know.

Later in the show, councilman Jeff Johnson took issue with that. He said DeWine is overstepping his role by criticizing local leadership.

JOHNSON: “We don’t need Mike DeWine coming in here, telling us what our system is—and then disrespecting our leadership. By saying our heads are in the sand, it’s about leadership. He’s out of his lane. It is not his responsibility to come and tell elected officials what they’re not doing.”

Johnson said he’s asked his constituents to withhold judgment until the county prosecutor decides whether to press criminal charges and until the city decides whether officers should be disciplined.

Patrolmen’s union president Jeffery Follmer repeated his call for police chief Michael McGrath to resign. Follmer defended the officers, and said he disagrees with department rules limiting the size of a chase to a few police cars—except under unusual circumstances. He called those rules “crazy.”

FOLLMER: “You never know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if there’s going to be a foot chase. You don’t know if these guys are going to get out of the car, run, start shooting at police officers. We’re coming in numbers, like I said. We’re going home at the end of the day. When more officers come, it’s for their officers’ safety. They’re looking out for each other.”

City councilman Jeff Johnson said the union’s call for the chief’s resignation was disrespectful. In a press conference this week, Mayor Frank Jackson said the chief will keep his job.

Callers to the program had a range of opinions. Here’s a sampling. 

DENNIS IN COLLINWOOD: “It’s by the grace of God that the police didn’t shoot each other. It was a comedy of errors. It was a sad event.”

JAMIL IN LAKEWOOD: “Absolutely no justification. And everybody involved with that situation needs to be dealt with.”

BOB IN BRECKSVILLE: “And then the only excuse they can give for shooting them, which I call it an execution, is that it’s their perception that they’re armed. Was anybody pointing a gun at them?”

KAREN IN EAST CLEVELAND: “You got all these rules and regulations and procedures and protocols, but when you’re shooting at another person as a person of authority, do you ever tell your brother, or fellow police person—stop?”

AL IN OHIO CITY: “I don’t stand here thinking that if I were in their shoes, that I would know when and when not to pull the trigger.”

Those Dennis in Collinwood, Jamil in Lakewood, Bob in Brecksville, Karen in East Cleveland and Al in Ohio City.

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Courts/Crime - Fire/Law Enforcement

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