Foundations, Businesses Asked to Help Fund Cleveland's Police Reform

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Before the US Justice Department and the city of Cleveland publicly presented their agreement for police reform Tuesday, they met privately with several different groups of community leaders to enlist their support. They were seeking both morale and money.

Clergy were among the diverse civic leaders given a brief overview of the consent decree just ahead of the public announcement.

Moral buy-in from the faith community may be vital to the reform plan’s success – but so is financial buy-in.

"We didn’t get into any kind of details, but it’s clear that financial support is something that they will be looking for," said David Abbott, head of the George Gund Foundation. He said he and other potential funders met in US Attorney Steven Dettelbach’s office early Tuesday morning with Justice Department officials and Mayor Frank Jackson. Dettelbach’s office confirmed the meeting, and the Cleveland Foundation said it participated also.

Abbott says they and representatives of Saint Luke’s Foundation, The Greater Cleveland Partnership, Forest City Enterprises and PNC Bank were given a basic rundown of the agreement. 

"Vanita Gupta, the head of the Civil Rights Division, made the point that it was a national model because of its comprehensiveness, and you don’t get to a comprehensive reform of a major institution like the police department without a fair amount of expense," Abbott said.

He said the mood among the philanthropic and business leaders seemed positive and supportive.

"It is something that our foundation would be eager to help with if we can," he added.

Mayor Frank Jackson hasn’t released a cost estimate. The Justice Department has funded some city police programs for years and a spokesman said it will continue to do so, keeping in mind the city’s increased financial burden under the consent decree.

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