(WASHINGTON) — Days after protests over a police shooting verdict rocked Cleveland, the Justice Department reached a settlement with the city over police conduct that has shown a “pattern and practice” of unnecessary force. The settlement comes after a Cleveland patrolman was acquitted Friday for his role in the fatal shootings of two unarmed black people in 2012.
Announcing the agreement, Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, “Today, Cleveland demonstrates to the rest of the country that people can come together across perceived differences to realize a common vision of a safer, more just city.”
The agreement will require the Cleveland Police to provide improved training and guidance on when and how officers use force. “Officers will be trained to use de-escalation techniques, rather than force, whenever possible. In addition, if force is used, officers will immediately provide emergency first aid as necessary,” Gupta said. The agreement also sets up a new Community Police Commission of faith-based organizations, civil rights advocates, police unions and other community leaders who will partner with police to work towards “bias-free” policing.
The investigation of the Cleveland police by the Civil Rights Division found that the police had a disturbing record of shooting residents, striking them in the head, and spraying them with chemicals, when such extreme force was not needed. The highly critical report was issued last December, a month after Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old African American boy, was fatally shot by police officers while he was holding a toy pistol. Video of the incident went viral, and drew national attention to Cleveland’s police department.
The protests in Cleveland over the Memorial Day weekend were triggered by the acquittal of Officer Michael Brelo on manslaughter charges in the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012. Russell and Williams were killed after they allegedly led police on a long car chase across Cleveland that eventually grew to more than 60 police cars.
Prosecutors charged that once the car was finally stopped, more than a dozen officers fired more than 100 rounds into the vehicle. Officer Brelo was accused of climbing in the hood of the car and shooting 15 rounds through the windshield, striking Russell and Williams.
The Justice Department said it is continuing its investigation of that shooting, despite Brelo’s acquittal, and it could bring federal civil rights charges against the officer.
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