In what is becoming the norm rather than an exception in unusual circumstances, it appears that the federal Department of Justice will now be monitoring the activities of local and state police departments. Cleveland is the latest focus of media attention after the acquittal of Michael Brelo and the previous accidental shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice, with questions being raised about excessive use of force by the police. But rather than having such questions handled by the city, or even the Governor’s office, Washington is stepping in to offer their own “guidance.”
The city of Cleveland, Ohio, has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over charges of police brutality, according to The New York Times.
The news comes as hundreds took to the streets to protest a judge’s decision not to convict a white police officer in the 2012 fatal shootings of an unarmed black couple. On Saturday, Officer Michael Brelo was cleared in the killing of Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, as they sat in their car…
The settlement, the details of which were unknown, could be announced Tuesday, according to The Times. In December, Attorney General Eric Holder said there was reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engaged in a pattern of excessive force.
After 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 in December.
ABC didn’t have any confirmed details of the agreement ahead of the announcement, but Politico obtained at least one general description.
Under the new arrangement, federal law enforcement officials would monitor the agency’s practices, a government official briefed on the arrangement told the Los Angeles Times.
The Justice Department’s report, released in December, found an alarming number of shortcomings in the Ohio city’s police force. Investigators found a pattern of “unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force,” along with the overuse of less lethal force like tasers. It also uncovered a pattern in which excessive force was applied against mentally ill people or those in crisis, including instances where officers were doing a welfare check.
That still doesn’t provide all the details, but the City Attorney is calling it a consent decree. That sounds more than a little ominous.
So in addition to local and state supervision, the police force in Cleveland will now have Loretta Lynch and the Justice Department second guessing their every action. I understand that when controversial encounters take place people are going to have questions and it’s natural to look for answers. At the same time, however, this is yet another example of how a top down, federal solution to all problems can run a functional system off the rails. We’ve seen this in other areas, such as education and the advent of Common Core. One size fits all solutions are rarely the answer in a nation as large and diverse as the United States and they certainly do not apply to law enforcement.
Whether you are discussing equipment, tactics or the general, philosophical approach to law enforcement challenges, every area is unique. The problems you encounter in a rural, farming district are light years away from the issues you’ll run into in South Central Los Angeles. Cleveland has their own problems as well, but trying to shove them into some sort of cookie cutter playbook hammered together inside the beltway isn’t going to solve anything. Unfortunately, these types of interventions make for great political talking points when liberals and the media choose to focus on the police as the problem instead of the solution.
So far, the protests in Cleveland have remained largely peaceful (at least when compared to other situations in Missouri, Maryland and New York) but the community is on edge. If there is no cop thrown in jail over the Tamir Rice shooting it’s difficult to imagine the situation holding together. None of this, however, means that the local authorities should throw up their hands and dump the whole thing in the lap of the feds. Just as we should focus on individuals who commit crimes rather than condemning entire communities for the problems in our cities, Washington needs to allow the eyes and ears closest to the scene to identify individual police officers who may go astray and deal with them appropriately, rather than deciding that law enforcement in general is somehow flawed and in need of correction. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, that’s obviously not going to be the case.