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.

Policing Topic:

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.

Summary of Recommendations:
Community Engagement &
Trust Building
1920s - 1930s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 20s & 30s 1920s - 1930s

Summary of Recommendations:
Community Engagement &
Trust Building
1940s - 1950s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 40s & 50s 1940s-1950s

Summary of Recommendations:
Community Engagement
1960s - 1970s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 60s & 70s 1960s - 1970s

Summary of Recommendations:
Community Engagement
1980s - 1990s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 80s & 90s 1980s - 1990s

Summary of Recommendations:
Community Engagement
2000- Present

  • 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

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 2000s - Today 2000s to 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.

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 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.