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Expansion of Case and University Circle police jurisdiction delayed again

Geese at Wade Lagoon in Cleveland's University Circle.
Lucky Photogragher
Cleveland City Council Safety Committee will continue its discussion of the expanded territory at its next meeting in two weeks.

Cleveland City Council is delaying for a second time expanding the jurisdiction of University Circle (UCI) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) police departments into nearby neighborhoods.

Last month, two ordinances to expand UCI police into Little Italy and CWRU police into Little Italy and a part of Glenville were first introduced and then held back because of community concerns.

The councilman who requested the delay, Kevin Conwell, said during Wednesday’s safety committee meeting those concerns were addressed.

“We’ve been having some spirited conversations, [the police departments] are out there in the neighborhood, talking with the residents, and the residents, they want it,” Conwell said.

But several councilmembers raised new questions Wednesday about the rules governing the smaller police departments that operate within Cleveland, the current jurisdictions of all those departments and the expiration date on the agreements that permit these departments to police in the city.

According to council’s research, there are a total of nine departments – CWRU, UCI, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority, MetroHealth, Cuyahoga Community College, and University Hospitals - that have a memorandum of understanding with the city giving them police powers in Cleveland.

Not included in the list read at council Wednesday are Cleveland Metroparks and Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority police departments.

The request to expand UCI and CWRU’s jurisdictions is separate from those agreements, which were modified in 2018 and expire later this year. Councilmembers are taking this opportunity to bring up issues with how the city oversees all the departments operating within its borders.

During a council meeting Wednesday, Safety Committee Chair Mike Polensek said council is going to seek more oversight of these departments’ activities before moving ahead.

“Further, future memorandums of understanding, the body cameras are going to be in it. It’s a given right now,” Polensek said. “And we’re also going to want to make sure that all of these departments are adhering to the consent decree.”

Currently UCI police use body cameras, CWRU police do not.

The city released the memorandums with University Circle and Case police before Wednesday’s meeting. Both require the adoption of the city’s use-of-force policies, which were revised as part of Cleveland's police reform consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department.

They also require training similar to the city’s in areas like crisis intervention, bias-free policing and search and seizure. But because the memorandums which include these polices are nonbinding, the outside police departments are not legally required to follow them. Cleveland Police Chief Wayne Drummond oversees compliance.

“If allegations or information comes to our attention that those things are not being adhered to then obviously we have the ability to pull the M.O.U.s from those particular agencies,” Drummond said.

In 2018, the city amended the agreements with non-municipal departments to include elements from the consent decree. Those agreements expire later this year.

Polensek indicated the proposal to expand CWRU and UCI police jurisdiction will pass once those concerns are addressed. Safety committee will continue its discussion of the expanded territory at its next meeting in two weeks.

Matthew Richmond is a reporter/producer focused on criminal justice issues at Ideastream Public Media.