Monitor Prepares Plan for First Year of Cleveland Police Consent Decree

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by Nick Castele

The group hired to oversee Cleveland’s police reform agreement will ask a judge next month to approve a plan for the first year of the effort.

The monitoring team offered an update on its progress and answered questions from members of city council Wednesday.

Members of the monitoring team say they’ve spent the past few months meeting with police, talking with community groups and mental health workers—and attending protests.

On the agenda for this year: revamping the city’s use of force policy, developing guidelines for Tasers and guns, and putting together district community police groups.

Matthew Barge with the Police Assessment Resource Center is the lead monitor who oversees Cleveland’s consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department. He said his team’s first-year plan goes before Judge Solomon Oliver on Feb. 1.

“And once the judge hopefully thinks it’s an appropriate way of implementing the decree,” Barge said in an interview, “we’ll be off to the races as I said, and kind of rolling our sleeves up, and policy by policy, training by training, initiative by initiative trying to do the reform.”

City council members pressed Barge’s team to explain how they bill the city for their hours of work, and to share with the public their deadlines for implementing the decree.

Barge said the deadlines will be in the final plan for the year, and he’s posting the team’s invoices and receipts online—as well as donating some hours of work for free.

Cleveland hired the monitoring team last year a cost of about $5 million over five years.

City council member Phyllis Cleveland said most of her constituents, in the city’s Central neighborhood, aren’t out at protests—and many feel their perspectives aren’t being included in the conversation.

“Probably every time I go in the grocery store, or I’m out and about in the community, they say, ‘Well, I want to talk to you, but I’ll just keep my mouth shut, because nobody wants to hear what I have to say,’” she said.

One member of the monitoring team said they’re working with groups in Cleveland’s public housing system to ensure citizens have input.

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