Federal monitor signs off on new Cleveland police Internal Affairs policies

Federal monitor signs off on new Cleveland police Internal Affairs policies

CLEVELAND, Ohio — The monitor overseeing the Cleveland police department’s reform efforts has asked a federal judge to approve a new manual and policies for the Internal Affairs unit.

The new policies lay out how Internal Affairs cases should be documented, and how quickly investigators should complete their work. They also include guidelines that say all employees are responsible for reporting misconduct and offer measures to prevent and punish retaliation.

(You can read the manual and new policies at the bottom of this story.)

The new manual and policies are part of a slew of court-enforced reforms the city of Cleveland agreed to following a Justice Department investigation that found problems throughout the police department. Work on tenets of the agreement, known as a consent decree, began in earnest in late 2015 and is ongoing.

The consent decree mandates an overhaul of the Internal Affairs Unit because the Justice Department found in 2014 that the police department failed to adequately and timely investigate and hold officers accountable for using excessive force and committing misconduct.

The department began work on a new Internal Affairs manual and policies in December 2016. During that time, the city also hired its first civilian superintendent to oversee the unit.

The new manual outlines the objectives of Internal Affairs, which include ensuring any misconduct by police officers is brought to light, according to a motion filed by consent decree monitor Hassan Aden. That would include civilian complaints against officers, which are usually investigated by the Office of Professional Standards.

The manual makes clear that Internal Affairs investigations must be completed even if officers are not charged with or convicted of crimes, Aden wrote. The fact an officer is not charged or convicted will not be considered in deciding whether the conduct occurred, or whether it was against the law or the police department’s policies.

Also, the manual says administrative investigations are presumed to run parallel to criminal investigations in cases that do not involve allegations of criminal use of force, the motion says.

In recent years, the city has waited to begin administrative investigations until after criminal probes are completed. This happened in several high-profile use-of-force cases, including in the death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014.

Internal Affairs will aim to complete criminal investigations not related to use of force within 120 days, and administrative investigations within 30 days, Aden wrote.

The manual says police supervisors must ensure that officers conduct themselves professionally. Even if an officer commits a minor infraction that doesn’t require anything more than a talking-to by a supervisor, the supervisor must enter the act into a database and submit it up to the Internal Affairs superintendent and chief of police to ensure the situation was handled properly, the motion says.

The monitoring team has signed off on nearly all the materials, though Aden noted that both the monitoring team and the Justice Department have reservations about one portion of the manual.

It states that if an officer retires or resigns as they face a joint criminal and administrative investigation, it does not negate the criminal probe, but does close the administrative one.

Aden wrote that the city must ensure the officer is not re-hired as a Cleveland police officer, and should advise any other agency that the officer left while an administrative probe was pending.

The motion says the city must train officers and the people who work in Internal Affairs. The monitoring team will also track new disciplinary cases to ensure they are being handled correctly under the new policies.

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Published at Tue, 05 Nov 2019 10:47:00 +0000

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