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Cleveland and Department of Justice reach agreement on moving forward with Issue 24

Cleveland police recruits during a graduation ceremony March 7, 2022.  [ City of Cleveland]
Cleveland police recruits during a graduation ceremony March 7, 2022.

The city of Cleveland and U.S. Department of Justice have reached an agreement on amending the consent decree that proposes minor changes so Issue 24 can be put in place.

“Those amendments [in Issue 24] do not conflict in any substantive way with this Agreement; rather, they impact how the City will carry out its responsibilities under it,” lawyers for the city and DOJ wrote in their Friday motion filed in federal court on changing the consent decree.

Under the proposal, the Community Police Commission, which has its own section in the agreement, keeps the same responsibilities.

It will still be an advisory group focused on public engagement. The police monitor and court will evaluate its effectiveness based on that role.

Current commissioners will remain until the mayor appoints at least seven new members who are approved by city council.

When voters passed Issue 24, the commission was given expanded powers – powers that conflict with police department responsibilities.

So, instead of spelling out those new responsibilities in the consent decree, where the responsible party was the Cleveland Division of Police, the proposed amendment replaces CDP with “the City.”

For example, paragraph 27 says CDP “will develop and implement a comprehensive and integrated community and problem-oriented policing model.” Because of Issue 24’s passage, city charter section 115 now gives the authority over all police policymaking to the CPC. So the proposed amendment to the consent decree simply crosses out “CDP” and replaces it with “the City.”

That means the new commission, acting as a part of “the City,” can start working on policies and training and officer discipline, without the court having to add all its new responsibilities into the consent decree.

Any decisions that come from that process, and affect any part of policing covered by the consent decree, will require the court’s approval.

The proposed changes are one of the topics to be covered at a hearing in federal court Thursday.

During budget hearings in Cleveland City Council in early March, the new law director, Mark Griffin, said once the consent decree is amended, the city plans to move ahead quickly with implementing Issue 24.

Griffin said the next step will be appointing new commissioners. In the city's 2022 budget, the CPC’s budget expands to a little over $2 million, with the majority of that going to a grantmaking fund.

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