An independent monitor will oversee changes in the Cleveland police department after a federal investigation found a pattern of “unreasonable and in some cases unnecessary force.”
The agreement, announced Thursday by outgoing Attorney General Eric Holder, follows a civil rights investigation launched last year, well before the police shooting death two weeks ago of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun.
Federal investigators found that the pattern of improper police tactics included shootings, blows to the head and excessive force against the mentally ill. Investigators concluded that Cleveland officers are not given adequate training and supervision.
Among the high-profile episodes that led to the investigation was a police shooting of an unarmed man and woman in November 2012 that followed a high-speed chase. Thirteen officers fired 137 shots at the man and woman. One officer and six supervisors were indicted.
While the investigation began before the 12-year-old was killed, Holder mentioned it as among a series of police killings that have started what he called an urgent national conversation about relations between police and citizens.
President Barack Obama, speaking at an education summit in Washington on Thursday, mentioned another incident — the chokehold death of Eric Garner, a New York man who was confronted by police in July for allegedly selling individual cigarettes. A grand jury declined to indict the officer.
“When it comes, unfortunately, as we’ve seen in recent days, to our criminal justice system,” Obama said, “too many Americans feel deep unfairness when it comes to the gap between our professed ideals and how laws are applied on a day-to-day basis.”
Duane Deskins, the first assistant prosecutor of Cuyahoga County, said the goal in Cleveland would be “a more transparent and effective system of justice.”
“I think every city in every community has its own set of particular issues,” he said. “I think we are trying to solve the problems that we have here.”
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