Jackson says police problems complex, stands by leadership

Mayor Frank Jackson talks with reporters about problems with city policing at a news conference Thursday at City Hall.
Mayor Frank Jackson talks with reporters about problems with city policing at a news conference Thursday at City Hall.
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The mayor acknowledged problems with the police force, but insisted they did not amount to systemic failure.

He stood by the division’s leadership despite calls from demonstrators and a city councilman for firings following the Justice Department review.

The mayor also repeatedly questioned whether the department had its facts straight, and said the city is looking into the claims.

"We’re just not accepting it because the DOJ said it," Jackson said.

But despite his misgivings about the report, the mayor acknowledged city policing had its flaws.

He cited external factors as well as internal ones. Jackson said there are disparities throughout the criminal justice system – in the treatment of different citizens, and of citizens versus police. He said that extends to police culture, including a ‘code of blue’ that discourages criticism of fellow officers. And, he said, when the city tries to punish bad behavior, it often has its hands tied, since under union contracts, demoted or fired officers can appeal their cases to an arbitrator.

"And invariably the arbitrator will say, ‘City, you’re right, but maybe you’re too harsh. So bring them back,'" Jackson said.

He called the recent shooting death of Tamir Rice by an officer his worst moment as mayor, and talked about the difficulty of striking a delicate balance between protecting the public and allowing police leeway to protect themselves.

Overall, Jackson welcomed reform he says is already underway, and will ramp up under a legal agreement being negotiated with the Justice Department.

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