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Consent Decree Calls On Cleveland Police To Be Problem Solvers

Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams addresses city council in March. [Nick Castele / ideastream]
Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams addresses city council in March.

Cleveland police officers must help solve community problems under new policies submitted for a federal judge’s approval this month.

Officers should help solve problems in ways that don’t involve making arrests, the policies say. That could include connecting people with mental health or drug treatment, homeless services or domestic violence agencies.

That includes a requirement that officers spend one-fifth of their time interacting with residents and community leaders. Monitor Hassan Aden asked U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver in a court filing Friday to approve the policies.

The policy, Aden wrote in the filing, “makes clear officers’ expectations to actively collaborate with Cleveland residents to address public safety issues and the conditions that lead to crime.”

The new order recommends officers walk and bike through neighborhoods, follow up with crime victims, attend community events and visit businesses and other local institutions.

Police must also collect data on their interactions, listing where they met with residents, whether it was an organized event and how many other officers were there.

Brass won’t discipline patrol officers for failing to meet these new expectations, but they can refer to the policies when making promotions or assignments.

To help police get to know their beats, the city plans to draw up “asset maps” describing the needs and makeup of neighborhoods in each of Cleveland’s five police districts.

Cleveland already holds regular community relations meetings in each police district to share crime reports with residents and hear about local problems. Those meetings will continue under the new policies, but are being renamed “District Policing Committees.”

Oliver signed off in February on a more detailed set of community policing plans. These new policies codify what the division of police will expect from officers and their supervisors.

Aden, a former chief of police in Greenville, North Carolina, took over as head of the monitoring team in July.

“This Policy is not the endpoint,” Aden wrote in his court filing. “[The Cleveland Division of Police] still must enact the operational changes—including in deployment, staffing, resource allocation, and continued training on community engagement—that will allow it to best collaborate with Cleveland residents in identifying and resolving public safety problems.”

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