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Greg White is stepping down from his role at city hall overseeing Cleveland's consent decree

Greg White at Cleveland City Hall in 2016
Nick Castele
Ideastream Public Media
Greg White, who oversees the city's progress on its consent decree, appears at Cleveland City Council in 2016. During a press conference Thursday, White announced his resignation and stated the time is right for him to leave as "fresh eyes are in order right now."

Mayor Frank Jackson’s administration has begun handing over work on the consent decree to incoming Mayor Justin Bibb. It has started working with Bibb’s transition team, who will replace at least two key officials when he takes office.

Cleveland Chief of Police Calvin Williams has already announced his retirement when Bibb takes office.

And during a press conference Thursday, the city official overseeing progress on the consent decree, Greg White, announced he’ll also be stepping down.

“It’s a good time for this transition to take place,” White said. “It’s a good time for me to transition out of this program. Because in all truthfulness, fresh eyes are in order right now.”

During the virtual press conference on Facebook, White went through the city’s progress so far toward completing the police reform requirements set out in the 2015 agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. The presentation mirrored a November status report filed in U.S. District Court by the police monitor, Hassan Aden.

White said the city will spend $1.1 million next year on the monitoring team’s work, an increase from this year. Overall, more than $5 million from the city budget is expected to go towards consent decree work next year, according to White.

The city has entered a phase in the consent decree where it’s completed much of the policy and training work that it’s required to do. And now the monitoring team and DOJ are checking to see whether those reforms are taking hold.

It’s unclear how long it will take until the city meets the requirements of the consent decree, said White. Or even what that means.

“We need to make sure that we understand exactly what the criteria is for reaching compliance and that’s something that will have to be worked through with the monitoring team, as well as DOJ, to set clear targets for what we need to achieve,” White said.

The consent decree lays out hundreds of reforms the city has to undergo. And they have to show those reforms have taken hold in the police department for two years before being released from oversight by a federal judge and the DOJ.

For example, White said the monitoring team recently conducted an audit of use of force reports to determine whether officers are following court-approved policies.

“The monitoring team concluded preliminarily that the use of force cases were well-reviewed by the division, and supervisors were engaged and the vast majority of use of force cases were within policy adopted by the department and approved by the court,” White said.

It’s not clear yet whether the audit’s findings will be enough to put the department in compliance with the consent decree’s use of force requirements. During the next year, there will be similar assessments of serious use of force cases, disciplinary hearings, and search and seizure policies.

According to Jackson, the clearly defined benchmarks agreed to by the city and measured by the monitoring team’s audits aren’t what the city is looking to ultimately achieve.

“Our goal was never just to get out from under the consent decree, to check a box and say we’ve done it,” said Jackson. “What we wanted to do is to create and institutionalize a culture that will be sustainable when there is no more monitor, when the consent decree is over.”
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Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.