Michael Brelo, a white police officer who brutally shot and killed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams while standing on the hood of their car in 2012, was acquitted of manslaughter charges just two days ago. Following the news, all eyes shifted toward Cleveland's response to the Department of Justice's scathing report released back in December. The result of an 18-month investigation, the report cited poor officer training and many examples of excessive force — including "officers who endangered lives by shooting at suspects and cars, hit people over the head with guns, and used stun guns on handcuffed suspects." When the report was initially released, the Justice Department issued the requirement that the city must construct a plan to revise the troubled police department.
Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Department of Justice over a pattern of excessive force and civil rights violations by its police department, and it could be announced as soon as Tuesday, a senior federal law enforcement official said. The official, who wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the settlement before the formal announcement, spoke Monday on the condition of anonymity.
The specifics of the settlement were unavailable. Messages left for a Department of Justice spokeswoman and the Cleveland Police Department seeking comment weren't returned.
According to the New York Times, the Cleveland police department has "agreed to follow some of the most exacting standards in the nation over how and when its officers use force." Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, hopes that the agreement will "serve as a model for those seeking to address similar issues in their communities."
Though one would assume this would have already been happening, Cleveland agreed on Tuesday to thoroughly document police interactions. According to the agreement, a "fundamental goal" of the revised policy surrounding use of force is to "account for, review, and investigate every reportable use of force." Additionally, the new policy strictly prohibits the use of force against people for "talking back" or as a response to someone attempting to run away from officers. The firing of warning shots and the act of "pistol whipping" are also prohibited.
Cleveland also agreed to soon hire a civilian leader for its internal affairs unit, as well as to establish and maintain a civilian advisory panel in an effort to improve officers' relationships within the community.