The Slatest

Cleveland Police Agree to Extensive Reforms in Deal With Justice Department

Police in Cleveland on May 23.

Ricky Rhodes/Getty

In the wake of large-scale protests over the acquittal of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo in a manslaughter case, city authorities announced Tuesday that they had agreed to a “consent decree” with the Department of Justice that would appoint an independent monitor to oversee a number of reforms related to what the DOJ in December 2014 called “systemic” use of excessive force by Cleveland police.

The decree still needs to be approved by a federal judge, though strongly-worded endorsements of the agreement by the city’s mayor, the U.S. attorney for northern Ohio, and the head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division seem to indicate that the parties involved are confident that the deal is done.


Under the agreement, Cleveland would be obligated to:

  • Ban pistol whipping, “neck holds,” warning shots, and firing shots at moving cars
  • Ban uses of “retaliatory force” against suspects for fleeing or “disrespecting” officers
  • Prohibit racial profiling (which is not banned by Ohio law) in the conduction of stops and searches
  • Write specific guidelines for the use of firearms, stun guns, and pepper spray, then train officers using those guidelines
  • Train officers in “bias-free” and community-policing principles
  • Train officers to deal with individuals who are suffering a mental health “crisis”
  • Document uses of force by officers
  • Document stops and searches
  • Periodically analyze use-of-force and stop/search data
  • Establish a community policing commission
  • Create a police inspector general’s office


The agreement does not require officers to use body cameras, though Cleveland is already introducing a police body camera program of its own accord.

The Department of Justice is currently negotiating similar police reforms in Ferguson, Missouri and on May 7 opened an investigation in Baltimore to determine whether reform is necessary in that city.