Updates, Insights On Cleveland Police Department Reform Shared With Tri-C

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By ideastream's Brian Bull

The ongoing push towards police reform brought several community leaders to the Tri-C campus in Cleveland today.

About 75 college students gathered to hear efforts to improve training and community relations for Cleveland’s Police Department.  The four-person panel included criminal defense lawyer Terry Gilbert.

Gilbert listed off a number of situations since 2002 where police use of force has been in question.  He said the “137 shots fired” case – where Cleveland Police officers fired dozens of rounds at two unarmed suspects in 2012 – was a “pivotal point” that led to a police reform agreement between the city and the Justice Department.

“If this doesn’t work then we’re in big, big trouble," Gilbert said. "This is democracy in action where we can make sure that the money is spent right, that these issues of use of force, mental health, accountability, training – most importantly -- bring Cleveland police to a model where we can be proud of the work that they do.” 

Other panelists included former state senator Nina Turner co-chair of the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations, police union head Steve Loomis, and Rhonda Williams…a social justice activist and Case Western Reserve history professor. 

Turner told the audience during the 90-minute discussion that they need to help improve relations between the community and the police.  

“And if all of us put a little “extra” on our ordinary, extraordinary things can, will, and do happen," said Turner.  "But it certainly takes all of us, we will rise or fall together as a community. We have to address the hard issues and not be afraid to address those issues, but we gotta have the same courage and fervor to call out wrong on both sides of the spectrum.”

Turner, who co-Chairs the Ohio Task Force on Community Police Relations agreed with a police union representative that while many people are wary and afraid of law enforcement, that most officers have good intentions and may be wrongly judged by the actions of a few.  

Meanwhile, panelists Williams and Loomis also serve on the Cleveland Community Police Commission.  It meets Wednesday night at Elizabeth Baptist Church. 

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