Friday, December 12, 2014

Cleveland City Council Special Hearings - “Listening Tour”, Public Meetings Regarding DOJ Report

Announcement of Public Meetings "Listening Tour", December 12, 2014.

Announcement of Listening Tours, December 10, 2014.

See - Link to Department of Justice Documentation 

Executive Summary (English and Spanish), a Table of Contentsformatted for quick reference and full copy of the Department of Justice Investigation Report of the Cleveland Division of Police issued December 4, 2014; and, the the Joint Statement of Principles executed December 2, 2014.

NOTE:  Documents formatted and presented by Councilman Brian Cummins, Ward 14.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Statements on the Department of Justice and Cleveland Policing

U.S. Justice findings, the need for accountability and change in leadership

Cleveland, Ohio - The U. S. Department of Justice has released their investigation report that concludes, “the Cleveland Division of Police engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment.”

The report describes a pattern of excessive use of deadly force including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons; excessive force against persons who are mentally ill; and, employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable and places officers and civilians at unnecessary risk.

The scathing report follows the recent tragic deaths of Tanesha Anderson and Tamir Rice and comes two years after the car chase and shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams.

Mayor Frank Jackson is credited for requesting an investigation in late December 2012.  However, his request came on the heels of pressure from community organizations that sent a letter to the Department of Justice asking for an investigation weeks earlier.

Now, two years later, after 58 pages of details and growing protests, the Mayor’s response has been insufficient.  The gravity of the report, the police department’s history with problems of excessive force, and the city’s inability to improve oversight and management require stronger actions.

The Mayor should heed the calls from the public to have Safety Director Michael McGrath, Chief of Police Calvin Williams and Martin Flask, Assistant to the Mayor for Special Projects, step down from their posts.

Director McGrath and Assistant Flask (former Safety Director) both retired in 2010 and 2001, respectively then were re-hired by the city in a practice known as “double-dipping.” McGrath first joined the force in 1981 and Flask in 1973.

Calvin Williams has served as Chief since February of this year.  He previously held the second most powerful position in the Department, as Deputy Chief of Field Operations beginning in 2011, and he entered the Command staff as Third District Commander in 2006.  Williams joined the force in 1986.

All three received promotions in February with no competitive process, in the middle of the Justice investigation.  The timing of their promotions and their continued leadership of the Public Safety and Division of Police is troubling and an example of an entrenched administration that is reluctant to change.

Their presence reflects a broken and dysfunctional system of government, a system lacking accountability.  One that allows “double-dipping” by retired chiefs, directors and others to stay on, often stifling creativity, new ideas, and opportunities for innovation and substantive change.

The same system has also allowed officers to move up through the ranks without having to take promotional tests, skipping over several ranks on the ascent to command positions.  Combined, these practices undermine respect for the command staff and send the wrong message to the rank and file – that political loyalty can trump new ideas and innovation that are unlikely to be welcomed by supervisors or the brass.

Without change at the top, Mayor Jackson is stuck in a position of denial of the severity of the Justice findings. By not holding the command staff accountable, the Mayor risks losing credibility and jeopardizes the process of community reconciliation and re-building of trust and cooperation required for community-centered policing.

The problems described in the Justice report signify troubles with the deep-rooted culture of the Division of Police and is reflective of other divisions of city government.  A culture that places value on trust and loyalty above competency and accountability; a pattern of behavior that maintains and manages status quo systems while reacting to problems, as opposed to developing and rewarding talent and being proactive in adopting new technologies and modern best practices.

In addition to troubles within the Division of Police, there are significant problems within the leadership and management of the Division of Fire.  There are strained relations with unions and the 2010 announced integration of Fire and EMS is stalled, compounding Public Safety challenges.

Throughout the past year there has been a strong feeling of a city on the rise, with major development projects happening downtown.  Several neighborhoods are seeing great gains; we achieved a renewed commitment to our young students and public school system; and, as a result, witnessed an increase in civic pride.  Consider the important preparations and management of the RNC convention in 2016 and all that it will bring.

There is great risk now of losing momentum and credibility, along with jeopardizing the hope of re-building trust and collaboration between our residents and safety forces. 

Without strong confidence in city government we will not move forward at a pace that is competitive with other regions and world-class cities. As someone once said, a leader must lead, follow or get out of the way.

The future – Community Policing Commission, bias-free policing and a community centered policing strategy

There is a pressing need to turn our attention to the hard work we need to do to ensure substantive change in the way our police and citizens interact in ensuring our communities are safe for all.  Here are three things that should be given serious consideration in how we move forward in negotiating and implementing a consent decree agreement with the Department of Justice.

Community Policing Commission
In 2012, Seattle Washington’s City Council and Mayor enacted legislation to form a Community Policing Commission to be a vehicle by which a diverse representation of community members could be joined together to shape and influence the negotiations and implementation of the Seattle consent agreement.  Cleveland needs to follow that best practice and learn from cities like Seattle and Cincinnati how trust and collaboration can be re-built between the police and residents.

Bias Free Policing
Bias Free Policing is a strategy and policy that requires a police offer to make decisions based on reasonable suspicion and grounds rather than stereotypes.  Biased-based policing is when a police officer is motivated by characteristics of a protected class of people under state, federal and local laws, as well as other characteristics to include but not be limited to:

-          Age
-          Disability status
-          Economic status
-          Familial status
-          Gender
-          Gender Identity
-          Homelessness
-          Mental illness
-          National origin
-          Political ideology
-          Race, ethnicity, or color
-          Religion
-          Sexual orientation
-          Use of a motorcycle or motorcyclerelated paraphernalia
-          Veteran status

Community Centered Policing
Across the nation police misconduct has eroded public trust and with tight budgets and layoffs Cleveland’s Division of Police did away with police mini-stations and other tools that were used for community policing.  There are some good initiatives and programs that the city of Cleveland’s Community Policing Unit is engaged in, but a Community Centered Policing strategy goes further to develop proactive policies and uses technology and organizing to ensure deep involvement and connections are made between the police and members of our diverse community.

Ref: PolicyLink Resources on Community-Centered Policing Strategies for Advocates and Organizers

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

NuCLEus project - initial project overview presented to Council, preliminary legislation approved for title transfers

Today, Cleveland City Council heard and approved this evening Ordinance No. 1410-14 in a joint hearing of the Development, Planning and Sustainability and Finance Committees.  The legislation was introduced last month.  The ordinance authorizes the City to acquire and re-convey properties presently owned by Gateway Huron LLC for purposes of entering into the chain of title prior to the adoption of tax increment financing legislation.

The project's conceptual plan passed the Cleveland Planning Commission on November 7th. Today's Council hearing and approval is a preliminary step with additional design and financing details to be introduced for future hearings.
A colored diagram shows the general shape, or "massing" of the proposed nuCLEus development in downtown Cleveland, and the arrangement of uses within the project.  Source: Stark Enterprises of Cleveland and J-Dek Investments Ltd. of Solon

In summary the project is a collaboration of Stark Enterprises and J-Dek Investments Ltd. of Solon, It is estimated to represent an investment of between $250 - 350 million.  The major components or uses are represented in the diagram above.  It would be located primarily on two blocks sandwiched by Prospect Avenue and Huron Road, just north of the Q and east of East 4th Street.

Preliminary plans for financing include passage of a non-school Tax Increment Financing that is estimated to generate between $10 to 15 million.   In addition, there are media reports of other potential funding that could include Casino funds that could be authorized by the County as well as other funding from the City's Vacant Property Initiative. See the media reports referenced below.

Project Site: Stark Enterprises, NuCLEus, 501 High Ave, Cleveland, OH 44115

Media Coverage:

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Nov. 13th Public Meeting - Design Concepts for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge Malls to the Lakefront

There will be a public meeting regarding Design Concepts for the Pedestrian and Bicycle Bridge Malls to the Lakefront from 6:00 - 7:30 pm on Thursday, Nov. 13, in the County Council chambers on the fourth floor of the county administration building, 2079 East 9th Street, Cleveland, Ohio.

For in-depth coverage of the project see the following article as well as the Group Plan Commission site.  The announcement and presentation provided last week to the County are provided below.