Eric Holder Cites Pattern of Excessive Force in Cleveland Police Dept.

PHOTO: Eric Holder speaks at the Justice Department on Dec. 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Eric Holder speaks at the Justice Department on Dec. 3, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Attorney General Eric Holder said today there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engages in a pattern of using excessive force.

"In recent days, millions of people throughout our nation have come together, bound by grief and bound by anguish, in response to the tragic deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City," Holder said. "The tragic losses of these and far too many other Americans, including just last month the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice here in Cleveland, have really raised urgent national questions."

Following an investigation of nearly 600 "troubling, high-profile use of force incidents" between 2010 and 2013, "we determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland division of public police engages in a pattern and practice of using excessive force," Holder said.

"The city has acknowledged that the Department’s findings raise issues of importance to people really throughout this community,” he added. “Together, we have agreed to a statement of principles that will lead to a court enforceable consent decree, including an independent monitor who will oversee the implementation of sustainable reforms, assess compliance based on objective measures and ensure that robust new policies and practices will result in more effective and constitutional policing.”

As for what excessive force means, specifically for the Cleveland community, particularly for people of color, here is what the Department of Justice alleged was happening:

• The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons;

• The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force including Tasers, chemical spray and fists;

• Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill and in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check; and

• The employment of poor and dangerous tactics that placed officers in situations where avoidable force became inevitable.

"We understand that the progress we seek will not come overnight," the Attorney General told reporters. But the joint statement of principle and the eventual consent decree, will "empower these dedicated women and men in blue to address persistent challenges to obtain the training and other resources that they need in order to do their jobs safely and effectively.”