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.
One of the most challenging aspects of policing is dealing with those who are undergoing a mental health or other crisis. Police officers are expected to deal with circumstances that have not traditionally been under the purview of policing in America.
The 2015 Consent Decree outlines how Cleveland police are to utilize existing community groups such as the ADAMHS Board to insure that officers are given the proper training and perspectives to inform their interactions with disadvantaged or struggling community members.
This was a similar approach adopted by Safety Director Eliot Ness in the 1930s, when he expanded social safety programs towards youth, as that way the police could better understand the people they were to serve.
This was built upon recommendations by the 1922 Survey on Criminal Justice in Cleveland, to establish a women’s bureau and a social services bureau, the latter specifically to deal with welfare cases, including mental health issues. Training officers how to treat people with dignity and decency was emphasized in the 1967 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ Cleveland’s Unfinished Business in the Inner City.
Concerns about having the police, who are trained more often to deal with criminal matters, deal with social services is not new. In the 1945 Police Survey suggested establishing a separate unit (then called a sanitary unit) to help people who were going through a mental health crisis, as opposed to having armed police officers trying to handle the situation. So this has been an ongoing discussion for some time.
Timeline of Key Reports & Recommendations
The timeline below summarizes the recommended reforms related to Crisis Intervention from the reports & documents that reviewed Cleveland police operations and encouraged reform. These are not the exact words from the text, but are summarized by our researchers as best as possible – highlighting key points and phrases.
- Expanded social programs for youth, e.g., Scouting, Boys and Girls clubs, etc.; establish a social services bureau (Criminal Justice in Cleveland), (Reorganization Police Department)
- Establish a Women’s Bureau (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- End police brutality and encourage de-escalation (Eliot Ness introduced de-escalation and defensive only training) (Report on Lawlessness in Law Enforcement), (Reorganization Police Department)
- Establish a special services bureau. The special services bureau should experiment in social services and pre-delinquency. They should liaison with community groups, schools and other agencies of social services and secure a degree of cooperation (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- Establish a Sanitary Unit to deal with mental health crises, as opposed to regular patrol officers (1945 Survey)
- Give officers human relations training (Cleveland's Unfinished Business in its Inner City)
- Establish or expand diversion programs for those whom the criminal justice system would be inappropriate (National Strategy to Reduce Crime)
- No highlights for this particular area. Please check back as our analysis continues.
- 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 Crisis Intervention by analyzing past recommendations concerning mental health and other social services.
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.