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.
Management & Leadership
An important component of the 2015 Consent Decree deals with changes to management and leadership that are required to ensure that reforms are effectively carried out. Policing is hierarchical and greatly influences a division’s culture; good leadership is key to good policing. Because of this leadership and organizational structure have been frequently included in recommendations to improve Cleveland’s police force.
The 1922 report on Criminal Justice in Cleveland, mentioned several areas of leadership that needed to be reformed: there were concerns about the loyalty of police commanders; the organization’s hierarchy was convoluted and it was not clear who was in charge of whom; and there was a lack of organizational learning.
To combat this, it recommended streamlining the organization, hiring an outsider who understood how organizations work, and use the police academy to conduct analysis on how best to improve the Division internally. In 1938 Eliot Ness was chosen as safety director and tried to implement these reforms. Unfortunately, these reforms did not last long after he left.
By 1945, a Survey by the Bureau of Government Research found that similar institutional problems that the 1921 report had described. In the 1960s and 70s, the Little Hoover Commission and a Confidential Memo to the City described similar disorganization, this time noting how segregation in the Division was being exacerbated by these problems. Similar calls for reorganization and reform came up again in the 1980s and 1990s.
To this day Cleveland police officers often express concerns about their place in a hierarchy, and are often unsure of whose orders to follow. This will need to be addressed if there is to be meaningful police reform in Cleveland.
Timeline of Key Reports & Recommendations
The timeline below summarizes the recommended reforms related to Management and Leadership 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.
- Get outsiders to lead the department; preferably a civilian with experience in human relations (Criminal Justice in Cleveland), (Reorganization Police Department)
- Change Charter, One Civilian Director, Streamline authority, and improve organizational efficiency (Criminal Justice in Cleveland), (Reorganization Police Department)
- Consolidate the number of police stations (17 in 1922) (Criminal Justice in Cleveland), (Reorganization Police Department)
- The academy should be constantly studying the problems in the organization and recommending improvements (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- The police organization should not be under the Director of public safety. They should be a separate entity with a single head that reports to the mayor. (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- The Department of police should be in the charge of a single civilian administrative head, to be known as the “Director of Police”. This person should be from the private sector with understanding of human resources (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- Select a head that is non partisan and can endure through short lived administrations. The director should be committed to a lifetime of betterment of police. (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- Eliminate outside Civil Service in police promotions. Internal promotions should be decided exclusively internally via a “board of promotion.” Promotions should be based on merit standards developed by the board. (Criminal Justice in Cleveland)
- Hold leadership accountable for low morale and fractures (1945 Survey)
- Clarify chain of command (1945 Survey)
- Make Chief accountable to Safety Director (1945 Survey)
- More formalized power structures; higher standards for management; look towards private and non-profit sector; hire outside consultants (or hire a staff to assess) (The Challenge of Crime in a Free Society), (Cleveland's Unfinished Business in its Inner City), (Police Services in the City of Cleveland Ohio), (Confidential Memo on Organizing Public Safety in Cleveland)
- Hire a Black Assistant Safety Director (Cleveland's Unfinished Business in its Inner City)
- Rotate officers regularly, more cross meetings, insist all units have common goals; consistent ethics and morale (Cleveland Grand Jury Report), (Cleveland Crime Commission Corruption Report)
- Hold leadership accountable for low morale and fractured organization (Cleveland Little Hoover Commission)
- Adopt new programs for administrative rulemaking, restructure units (1980 Plan for Improving Operations of the Cleveland Police Department), (Policing in the Nineties)
- Improve training for patrol officers and supervisors (1980 Plan for Improving Operations of the Cleveland Police Department), (Policing in the Nineties)
- Have employees participate in evaluating supervisors (1980 Plan for Improving Operations of the Cleveland Police Department), (Policing in the Nineties)
- Teach police leadership to accept change (1980 Plan for Improving Operations of the Cleveland Police Department), (Policing in the Nineties)
- Integrate mini-stations leadership into police districts (Policing in the Nineties)
- 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 Management and Leadership by analyzing past recommendations concerning the department’s leadership and organizational structure.
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.