Police Reform in Cleveland: 100 Years Project

The CPC’s 100 Year Project documents the history of policing and police reform in Cleveland from 1922 to the present. Follow our timeline starting in Cleveland in the 1920s, or see past reform recommendations made by policing topic. This is an ongoing project and we encourage all interested individuals and organizations to join us in expanding on this research.


1940s - 1950s

After WWII, there is an economic boom across the US and Cleveland; the police aim to apply the military style organization and tactics many officers grew accustomed to during the war to policing. Police organizations grow and successfully enter the realm of politics. Racial segregation and discrimination start to become major points of contention.

Significant Documents

Reports & documents that reviewed Cleveland police operations encouraged reform.

Significant Events

Highlighted major events in this time frame, Not intended to be an all inclusive list.

Political Climate

The general mood and opinions about political and social issues in the 40s & 50s

  • Partisan politics – Cleveland became increasingly Democratic after the New Deal, but Republicans still regularly win city-wide office. Black voters begin to shift from being strongly Republican to strongly Democratic.
  • Cleveland is the 7th largest city in the US, with its population peaking at 914k, and the CDP has over 1,900 officers. Black Clevelanders make up 9% of the population. “White flight” begins as veterans buy homes in suburbs.
  • Crime is down everywhere, nationally, since its peak during Prohibition. Organized crime is rampant, but keeps a lower profile.
  • Citizens are still concerned with the perceived rise in property crime, particularly juvenile delinquency and robberies.
  • Black Clevelanders raise concerns about their unequal and often brutal treatment by officers. There is enforcement of segregation in businesses and health care as well as lack of service in black and brown neighborhoods.
  • Reforms form this time are aimed at making police more professional and improving police efficiency.
  • Police organizations begin to flex their political muscle, police reinforce military discipline and military organization and military tactics
  • Police infighting and cliques bring morale to a remarkable low

Police Reform Key Highlights

Table listing a problem or concern along with a summary of recommended reforms the 1945 Cleveland Police Survey. These are not the exact words from the text, but are summarized by our researchers as best as possible – highlighting key points and phrases.

Summary of Problem or Concern

Summary of Proposed Reform

Same organizational problems discussed in the 20’s and 30s; Conflict between Chief and Director of Public Safety

Make hierarchy and chain-of-command clearer; Director should be supervisory to chief

Inadequate training; mediocre performance from police force; lack of professionalism

Higher education required for entering academy; streamline academy training, improve recruitment

Aging police force

Mandatory retirement at 55, stabilize pension fund, recruit from veterans returning from WWII

Police doing non-police work

Have non-officers perform secretarial work; transfer welfare issues/cases to social service agencies ("sanitary unit")

Low morale and problems with "shadow organizations"

Disband organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police or change its culture of cliques and racial/ religious favoritism

Geographical changes

Increase districts to 6 (from 5); add second men to cars; change zone boundaries

Continuing the Research

The CPC’s research into the documented history of the Cleveland police is ongoing as part of the 100 Years Project. By looking into Cleveland’s past, the CPC aims to help the community gain a better understanding of what policing practices have been successful, what issues exist, and what lessons still need to be learned to move forward in creating a more sustainable policing model for the future.

If you are an individual or organization interested in joining us in taking a deeper dive into this information, please contact us to get involved in expanding on this research.

Join the Research

Please contact CPC Senior Policy Analyst, Ryan Walker, at rwalker@clecpc.org to get involved in expanding on this research.

Schedule a Presentation

CPC researchers are available for interviews and custom presentations for schools, groups or organizations interested in this project or its findings.

Questions or Feedback

We welcome your questions & comments about this project. Contact us via the information listed on our contact page or start a conversation on our community forum.

100 Years Project: Explore by Decade or Topic

Read about key documents and events by year, or learn about how each police reform issue area mandated by the 2015 Consent Decree compares to recommendations made in the past.