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:

Use of Force


Use of Force was a major concern in the 2015 Consent Decree, and has been a topic of concern for a long time, with many recommendations and reforms proposed that address the concerns that arise when an officer uses force against a citizen.

In 1931, the Wickersham Commission found that Cleveland Police officers regularly used what was then nicknamed “the third degree,” whereby they would use very harsh tactics, including beatings, to extract confessions out of people they had taken into custody. They also found that officers were known to shakedown citizens during police interactions. These tactics were disproportionately used against ethnic and religious minorities.

This was some of the corruption that Eliot Ness had hoped to address during his reorganization of the departmentNess also put into place a model of policing that focused on de-escalation techniques and officers underwent defensive only training. Many of these reforms were discontinued however, after he left office.

The 137 Shots incident that spurred on the Department of Justice’s investigation into Cleveland illustrates why it is so important to train officers in the use of force and have systems in place to investigate incidents when they do occur.

The 1983 Mayor’s Committee recommended the creation of a Force Incident Team and that data collected from use-of-force incidents is used to assess the need for training. Similar reforms are part of the Consent Decree’s mandates, and collecting and assessing this data will be key to making reforms stick.

Timeline of Key Reports & Recommendations

The timeline below summarizes the recommended reforms related to Use of Force 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:
Use of Force
1920s - 1930s

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

Summary of Recommendations:
Use of Force
1940s - 1950s

  • No highlights for this particular area. Please check back as our analysis continues.
See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 40s & 50s1940s - 1950s

Summary of Recommendations:
Use of Force
1980s - 1990s

See all Key Reform Recommendations of the 80s & 90s1980s - 1990s

Summary of Recommendations:
Use of Force
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 use of force by analyzing past recommendations.

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.