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.
Community Engagement & Building Trust
Building trust between officers and the community is a core mandate of the 2015 Consent Decree. Past reform efforts have focused on the Cleveland police’s community outreach programs –especially to younger community members and people of color.
A concern held by many in Cleveland that has been present from the start of reform efforts in 1922 is juvenile delinquency, brought about by poverty and other social problems. Eliot Ness sought to address this by expanding social programs for youth; he did this by bringing officers into help with programs like Scouting and Boys & Girls clubs, establishing a Juvenile Bureau focused on redirection, and meeting with young people in economically depressed neighborhoods, listening to their requests for economic opportunities and recreation centers.
Many of these programs and reforms were undone or went unemphasized after Ness was forced out of office. Despite some efforts to revive some of these youth programs, a lack of community trust makes doing so very challenging.
In the 1960s, the Kerner Commission and others recommended ways to improve interactions between CDP officers and Cleveland’s Black communities. They recommended that the CDP hire more Black officers, provide better social services, and establish a grievance process that satisfied community members. These recommendations were echoed in the 1980s and 1990s, and included similar recommendations for reaching out to the growing Hispanic community in Cleveland. These were also emphasised in the 2015 Consent Decree, because in order for community engagement to work the community itself must have confidence in the police.
There have also been recommendations from the beginning that police need to damp down on sensationalism in their rhetoric around crime. It was first mentioned in the 1922 Survey and again in the 1967 Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement, and again is a major concern today. Over-the-top rhetoric makes reform difficult and lowers citizens’ trust in the police and in the criminal justice system.
Timeline of Key Reports & Recommendations
The timeline below summarizes key recommended reforms related to Community Engagement & Building Trust from the reports & documents that reviewed Cleveland police operations and encouraged reform. This list is not all inclusive and they are not the exact words from the text, but are summarized by our researchers as best as possible – highlighting key points and phrases.
- Police should not feed press overly sensational stories (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- Expanded social programs for youth, e.g., Scouting, Boys and Girls clubs,; establish a social services bureau (Criminal Justice in Cleveland) (Reorganization Police Department, Eliot Ness)
- Community outreach and engagement (Reorganization Police Department, Eliot Ness)
- Police should liaison with community groups, schools and other agencies of social services and secure a degree of cooperation.(Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- Decrease foot patrols/ Increase motorized patrols (Reorganization Police Department, Eliot Ness)
- Decrease mini stations in favor of districts and zones (Reorganization Police Department, Eliot Ness)
- Bring back foot patrols (1945 Survey)
- Reduce number of supervisors and return them to the street (1945 Survey)
- Expand districts from 5 to 6 (1945 Survey)
- Take engagement seriously; Make plans and policies for community engagement (Cleveland Little Hoover Commission)
- Utilize unarmed community service officers to respond to non violent concerns (entry level position) (The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society)
- End sensationalism of crime by police; utilize facts only to inform community (The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society)
- The police must make community relationships a top priority from command officers to the line (The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society)
- Hire more officers of color, particularly black officers (Cleveland Little Hoover Commission), (The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society), (Cleveland's Unfinished Business in its Inner City)
- Policymakers and citizens should have final say in police policy, not police alone (ABA)
- Police should not participate in politics in uniform (ABA)
- Community must set standards for discretionary policing (The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society)
- Establish a regular news liaison function for responding to inquiries from the media and for disseminating information on police activities (National Strategy to Reduce Crime)
- Employ Force Incident Team; use data to analyze UOF incidents; highlight officers who deescalate as models; use UOF reports to assess need for training (Mayor's Committee on Police-Community Relations)
- Abolish Mayor’s complaint panel; elected or appointed civilian authority will rule on serious cases; Law Dept. for minor (Mayor's Committee on Police-Community Relations)
- Address concerns of the growing Hispanic community (Policing in the Nineties) (Recommendations to Increase Diversity/ Minorities on Public Safety Forces)
- Establish an open and receptive climate for minorities to work with officers and maintain minorities’ interest (Recommendations to Increase Diversity/ Minorities on Public Safety Forces)
- A detailed list of all reform efforts for this time period can be found in the Consent Decree. Read the Consent Decree here or click below to see all documents and recommendations in the 2000’s - present
Continuing the Research
The CPC’s research into the documented history of the Cleveland police is ongoing as part of the 100 Years Project. We will be looking further into the topic of Community Engagement and Trust Building by analyzing past recommendations concerning engagement with young people and community outreach.
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.
100 Years Project: Explore by Decade or Topic
Read about key reform recommendations made by year, or learn about how each police reform issue area mandated by the 2015 Consent Decree compares to recommendations made in the past.