Council Committee Gets Earful as it Kicks off Listening Tour on Police Woes

Kimberly Brown tells the committee the Civilian Police Review Board's members should be elected, not appointed.
Kimberly Brown tells the committee the Civilian Police Review Board's members should be elected, not appointed.
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About two dozen people lined up to speak before a packed house at the Harvard Community Services Center.

Though the Justice Department report didn’t specifically address race, that was a major theme as people told personal stories of officer encounters, lectured council members on America’s racial history, and pleaded for help with specific cases of what they saw as unjust policing.

Jasmine Johnson’s mentally ill sister, Tanisha Anderson, died in police hands last month. She quoted language from the DoJ report that criticized the police for routinely overusing force on the mentally ill.

"She lost her life because of poor and inadequate training and recklessness, negligence," Johnson said. She demanded the cause of her sister's death and the names of the officers involved be released, and she called for the officers' indictment.

Neighborhood resident Alwin Bridges marveled that the officer who shot and killed Tamir Rice, Timothy Loehmann, was hired despite his dismal record at his previous department.

"You can’t tell me a police force the size of Cleveland’s didn’t have a policy to look at personnel records?" he asked. "I can’t get a job at McDonald’s without a background investigation!"

Like several speakers, Bridges also criticized the mayor’s resistance to the word “systemic” to describe the police department’s failures.

Julia Shearson, the head of a local Muslim advocacy group who’s been working with the ACLU, the NAACP and others on ideas for police reform, read a long list of specific policy demands – including using software to collect and analyze data on police actions.

She said it could serve as "an early warning of which officers are doing things incorrectly and need to be flagged so that their supervisors can put a stop to that."

Public Safety Committee Chairman Matt Zone told Shearson the city already has plans to start using that kind of software.

He also said legislation is in the works to clamp down on racial profiling and improve police training.

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