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Cleveland, Justice Department Reach Settlement On Police Reforms


The mayor of Cleveland has agreed to overhaul the city's law enforcement practices. The deal comes just days after an officer was acquitted there for shooting two unarmed homeless people in a car. The agreement with the U.S. Justice Department aims to rein in excessive force. In a moment, how this has worked out in other cities. First, here is NPR's Carrie Johnson.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson says the ambitious agreement he signed with the Justice Department represents a defining moment for his city.


FRANK JACKSON: I think that we need substantive change, and we need to get it done rapidly.

JOHNSON: The deal follows a scathing federal investigation into unconstitutional actions by Cleveland police. Justice Department civil rights lawyers found deep patterns of law enforcement misconduct, everything from beating unarmed suspects over the head with weapons to using tasers and pepper spray on people who were already in handcuffs.


STEVEN DETTELBACH: What we are announcing here today is way more than just talk.

JOHNSON: U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach says under the terms of the deal, Cleveland officers will need to de-escalate situations whenever possible. The settlement says police should not deploy neck holds or hit suspects in the head with their service weapons. And the agreement also calls for strict new oversight of police.


DETTELBACH: The city will both reform its existing watchdog offices and form new ones to ensure that all allegations of officer misconduct are fully, fairly and promptly investigated.

JOHNSON: The deal puts a civilian in charge of the internal affairs office and creates an inspector general watchdog at the police department. Chief Calvin Williams says he's signed on to those and other changes.


CALVIN WILLIAMS: What it really comes down to is, you know, we have to, I have to as chief, make sure that that community policing philosophy is part of the DNA of the Cleveland Division of Police.

JOHNSON: That means getting officers out of their cars and into communities where they can meet people, especially children, in their own neighborhoods. Vanita Gupta leads the civil rights division at the Justice Department.


VANITA GUPTA: Now, constitutional policing is the key. It is a key to building back trust between police departments and the communities they serve where it has eroded.

JOHNSON: Gupta says the settlement in Cleveland could be a national model for other cities with policing problems, but the deal won't come cheap. Mayor Jackson says it will cost millions of dollars to comply. He says he may need to enlist area businesses and charities to help pay the tab. Federal authorities acknowledge that the deal will involve years of hard work, but the Justice Department says that's a small price to pay to restore confidence in law enforcement. Prosecutors in Cleveland continue to investigate two police involved deaths there. One of them is the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. A white policeman shot Rice, who was black, while he held a pellet gun in a local park. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.