Civilian Oversight


Civilian Oversight of Police

There has always been civilian oversight of police. Police answer to mayors, city councils, prosecutors, and all civilian (non-police) officials, who, in turn answer to citizens who elected them. This, however, doesn’t negate the need for independent oversight of police that exists outside of the existing chain of command in an effort to reduce police misconduct against civilians.

One role of the Community Police Commission (CPC) is to review the Cleveland Division of Police’s civilian oversight structure and to make recommendations on any changes to improving CDP’s accountability and transparency. Regular reviews will help the citizens of Cleveland, along with the CPC, make informed recommendations on policies that will help develop a civilian oversight system that best fits the need of Cleveland’s citizens. 

Police Oversight in Cleveland

The main sections of the CPC’s oversight report are highlighted below, with more details in the full report here: Police Oversight in Cleveland: Best Practices for Civilian Oversight & Initial Review of Cleveland’s Oversight Structure (pdf).

Key Highlights

A truly independent oversight system does not currently exist in cleveland.

The Mayor is ultimately responsible for managing the civilian oversight process and is also at the top of the Cleveland Division of Police's hierarchy.


Research suggests implementing a permanent civilian oversight system has the potential to reduce costly lawsuits against the City and protect the reform investment.

Progress has been made towards fixing the civilian oversight system in Cleveland, but there is a long way to go.

Implementing the Consent Decree has required structural changes to how the City oversees its police force, but more changes are needed for Cleveland to have an effective civilian oversight system.

Oversight Best Practices

The 10 dimensions of best practices in civilian oversight are listed below and are based on existing best practices research. Here, we will compare the features of a successful civilian oversight body to Cleveland’s current oversight system. 


Does INDEPENDENT describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The CPC and CPRB/OPS report to a single person in the same chain of command. Such system is not independent.


Does DIVERSE describe Cleveland's current system? Yes, it does. The CPC and CPRB/OPS are diverse entities that reflect the population.

Involved in the Community

Does INVOLVED IN THE COMMUNITY describe Cleveland's current system? Yes, it does. The CPC regularly engages with the community and acts as the primary repository for the public’s input regarding police reform; the CPRB/OPS holds public hearings, welcomes input, and serves as a conduit for citizen complaints. The both regularly publish their findings.


Does FUNDED describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The CPC and IG position have no guaranteed funding beyond the Consent Decree; the CPRB/OPS has only limited funding guaranteed by the Charter (§ 115). There is only guaranteed funding for 1 staffer.

Broad in Scope

Does BROAD IN SCOPE describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The CPC has no power beyond recommending policies; the CPRB/OPS can only investigate administrative complaints, not criminal conduct.


Does EMPOWERED describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The City resists cooperation with the CPC when it requests documents; even though it is required to provide them in the Consent Decree (¶ 17.)


Does REGARDED describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The Mayor and Safety Director can chose to ignore any recommendation by the CPC, and can overrule any decision by the CPRB/OPS.


Does TRANSPARENT describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The CPRB/OPS decision making process for the Hillard Heintze Contract cases, is totally opaque.


Does EVENHANDED describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The public lacks confidence in the CPRB/OPS, and police officers and consider it to be frustrating and arbitrary.


Does PERMANENT describe Cleveland's current system? No, it does not. The CPC and Inspector General position are not in the Charter, so, presently, it will last only as long as the Consent Decree is in force; the CPRB/OPS is in the Charter, but only a single investigator is mandated (§ 115-1), meaning it could be greatly reduced in scope after the Consent Decree ends.

Best Practices: Tracking Cleveland’s Progress

The CPC created a 30 point scale intended to help track the City’s progress towards creating an effective oversight system that follows the 10 dimensions of best practices listed aboveTo create this scale, each of the 10 dimensions are assigned a rating which is modeled after the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team’s scale for assessing progress with the consent decree: Non-Compliance (0 points), Partial Compliance (1 point), Operational Compliance (2 points), and General Compliance (3 points).

Independent - Score: 0
Rating Score: 0
Diverse - Score: 2
Community Involvement - Score: 2
Funded - Score: 1
Broad Scope - Score: 0
Empowered - Score: 1
Regarded - Score: 0
Transparent - Score: 1
Evenhanded - Score: 1
Permanent - Score: 1

Rating Score Total: 9 out of 30

9 out of 30 is real progress, but there is a lot more progress to be made to bring the civilian oversight of police into full compliance with best practices. This score is intended to set a baseline for future progress reports for Cleveland’s efforts for establishing effective civilian oversight. A more detailed description and discussion about this scoring method is available in our Police Oversight in Cleveland report (pdf)

Police Accountability Units

Entities in Cleveland and their role in the police oversight system

Looking Ahead: Improving the Oversight System

Input from all communities is needed to create a more effective oversight system in Cleveland. Make your voices heard! Contact the CPC with your feedback, take part in a CPC work group or upcoming meeting, and get involved with other local organizations that support a long term plan for police oversight.