Friday, December 5, 2014

Cleveland Police Cited for Abuse by Justice Department

By RICHARD A. OPPEL Jr.DEC. 4, 2014
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A memorial for Tamir Rice, shot by the Cleveland police. CreditTy Wright for The New York Times

CLEVELAND — The Justice Department announced on Thursday that a nearly two-year civil rights investigation into the Cleveland Police Department had found a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” that resulted in dangerous and reckless behavior by officers, pointing out the kinds of problems that have angered black residents here and touched off demonstrations across the country in recent weeks.

The abuses cited in the report included excessive use of force by the police involving not just firearms, but also less-than-lethal weapons like Tasers, chemical spray and fists, which were sometimes used for retaliation. The report also said the police had used excessive force against mentally ill people and employed tactics that escalated potentially nonviolent encounters into dangerous confrontations.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a sign of the Obama administration’s growing concern about contentious police shootings and other use of force — and with demonstrations in New York; Ferguson, Mo.; and elsewhere — traveled to Cleveland on Thursday to announce the findings himself. The city has been roiled by the fatal shooting last month of a 12-year-old African-American boy by a rookie police officer.Photo

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. met with leaders in Cleveland on Thursday to discuss a report on the city’s police department. CreditTony Dejak/Associated Press

“Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments,” Mr. Holder said, “and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve.”

The Cleveland report was released a day after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white New York City police officer in the choking death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, 43, and nearly two weeks after a grand jury in Missouri decided not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. Both decisions led to demonstrations around the country, including violent protests in Missouri.

The report also came as law enforcement officials in other cities were grappling with police shootings.