Initially, it was thought the Settlement Agreement would last about five years. It’s now been more than seven.
Since 2015, Cleveland has operated under a Consent Decree, which has required Cleveland police to make significant policy changes to address what the Department of Justice found to be a pattern of excessive use of force.
Mayor Justin Bibb’s administration confirmed his goal is to request to end the Consent Decree by next year.
Ultimately, Judge Solomon Oliver will be the one to decide when to end the Consent Decree, but Law Director Mark Griffin tells Spectrum News the city is closer than ever.
.@CityofCleveland may soon be free of the consent decree. It was mandated by the DOJ in 2015 after uncovering a pattern of excessive force inside @CLEpolice. Law Director Mark Griffin confirms @MayorBibb’s goal is to request to end the consent decree by next year. @SpectrumNews1OH pic.twitter.com/Lz7Ny7BRqm— Micaela Marshall (@MMarshallTV) September 22, 2022
Bibb’s administration said compliance with the Consent Decree has cost the city millions of dollars each year.
Griffin said substantial progress has been made, and it’s almost time to move on to the next phase of police reform under Issue 24.
In March, Judge Oliver ruled the ballot initiative voters passed that strengthened civilian oversight of police should be incorporated into the city’s charter as section 115-5.
Griffin points to a 42% decrease in use of force incidents since 2019, a 24% increase in use of de-escalation techniques since 2020, and a 54% decrease in complaints alleging excessive force in 2021 compared to 2020, as reasons they are almost ready to end the Consent Decree.
But the Department of Justice said in court Thursday it’s important to not get carried away by looking at these numbers in isolation.
In court, the Monitoring Team explained that a Consent Decree has four stages and the city is currently in stage 3. They said that means it’s time to actively assess progress before moving to next phase which determines if Cleveland police can sustain the changes.
“Right now we have made tremendous progress," said Griffin. "Our use of force is down 42%. The Monitoring Team and the Department of Justice really recognize the strides that we’ve made. I think we disagree on how much effort, how much progress still needs to be made, but I think we’re knocking on the doorstep and I think that by next year we’ll be in a position to ask the court to consider to release us from the Consent Decree.”
The Community Police Commission was established under the Consent Decree, but after voters passed Issue 24 in November, it has become a permanent civilian oversight board with the final authority on police discipline.
Bibb’s administration and City Council are currently working to finalize who the members of the new commission will be and candidates are going through background checks.