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:

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.

Summary of Recommendations:
Management & Leadership
1920s - 1930s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 20s & 30s1920s - 1930s

Summary of Recommendations:
Management & Leadership
1940s - 1950s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 40s & 50s1940s - 1950s

Summary of Recommendations:
Management & Leadership
1960s - 1970s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 60s & 70s1960s - 1970s

Summary of Recommendations:
Management & Leadership
2000s - 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 - Present2000s - 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.

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.