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Cleveland's New Community Policing Plan Goes Before Federal Judge

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams addresses media in 2018. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams addresses media in 2018.

Cleveland police officers in neighborhood districts will spend 20 percent of their time engaging with the community under a new plan submitted for a federal judge’s approval this week.

That requirement is just one element of the city’s new community policing plan. The monitor of the city’s consent decree asked Judge Solomon Oliver on Thursday to sign off on the proposal, along with plans for recruitment and neighborhood policing committees.

Monitor Matthew Barge wrote in a court filing that the requirement is “an intended average across time,” not a rule for every shift. He wrote that the expectations may change depending on where an officer works.  

“This might include participating on bike and foot patrols, attending community meetings, or creating and implementing action plans with residents to address their issues,” Barge wrote.

The city’s recruitment plan aims to attract a more diverse applicant pool, increase staffing levels and build relationships with local leaders. Cleveland also intends to revamp neighborhood committees in each of the city’s five police districts.

Community Policing

Cleveland’s new community policing guidelines also expect officers to help community members draw up a “work plan” to solve local problems. Police will also draw up an “asset map” of community groups and neighborhood associations to help them work with local leaders.

“It is essential, as the Team has heard from Cleveland residents consistently, for patrol officers to remain in neighborhoods if they are to build meaningful relationships and attempt to establish new connections with community members and groups,” Barge wrote.

Barge acknowledged in his filing that the policing plan lacks hard details on how the city will carry out its new vision, such as a timeline for Cleveland to increase bike and foot patrols.

But he wrote that the plan was still a “commendable statement of vision,” and that the monitoring team will work with the city on the details.

Read the community policing plan here.

Neighborhood Committees

Cleveland’s district policing committees are meant to convene officers and residents to talk about local crime and safety issues.

“DPC meetings are open to all members of the community,” the plan reads. “They provide direct access to the district commander and other members of law enforcement.”

According to the plan, district commanders will use the meetings to identify local problems and collect feedback from neighbors.

The city’s plan calls for three community engagement officers in each district. They’ll spend all their time working with neighbors and will attend district policing committee meetings. The four-year community engagement officer program is funded by a grant.

Read the district policing committee plan here.

Recruitment and Hiring

Cleveland’s recruitment plan calls for police to improve relationships with community groups and hire a diverse set of qualified applicants.

According to September 2018 figures printed in the plan, women make up only 15 percent of the police force. About two thirds of the force are white, 23 percent are black and nine percent are Hispanic. These numbers haven’t changed significantly since 2015.

“In the past, the hiring process for public safety employees was not transparent to the community,” the plan reads. “Most applicants received hiring information from family members or friends who were already employed with the Division making diversity increasingly difficult and unintentionally serving to make our targeted population feel isolated and unwelcome.”

In the last year, the recruitment team has visited college campuses, attended career fairs and aired radio ads, according to a summary submitted with the plan.

Sgt. Charmin Leon, who heads the recruitment team, told Cleveland City Council this week that the team wanted to emphasize the work police do in resolving community conflicts.

She said the team watched recruitment videos from police departments across the country and found that they often don’t focus on conflict resolution.

“They were chock-full of SWAT, what we call running-and-gunning, action junkies,” she said. “And what we know is that’s the least amount of what we do.”

Read the recruitment and hiring plan here.

Nick Castele was a senior reporter covering politics and government for Ideastream Public Media. He worked as a reporter for Ideastream from 2012-2022.