By Gennifer Harding-Gosnell
The City of Cleveland Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB) met April 13 and reviewed the case against the police officers involved in the December 2019 high-speed pursuit that resulted in the death of 13-year-old Tamia Chappman in East Cleveland.
Office of Professional Standards (OPS) Investigator David Hammons presented his findings to the Board, and ended by saying, “OPS recommends that all of the above allegations against all officers involved in this presentation be sustained.”
The Board recommended disciplinary action against two supervisors and two patrol officers: Sgt. Michael Chapman and Lt. Gregory Farmer for procedural violations, including failing to terminate the pursuit at the appropriate time, and Patrol Officers Dustin Miller and Christian Stipkovich for violations related directly to the pursuit, including excessive speed and infractions of self-dispatch rules. All were recommended to receive Group I violation disciplinary action by the Chief of Police.
All other officers named in the case were cleared.
The Civilian Police Review Board reviews all citizen complaints against Cleveland Police officers. The initial complaint against the officers was filed by Zandra Mason, the mother of the two children walking with Tamia at the time of the incident, one of whom was also seriously injured. Ms. Mason’s attorney spoke for the family at the meeting, stating they believe these violations are evidence of a “bigger issue” with the Cleveland Division of Police. “[There is] No accountability, and no care from the top all the way down to these officers.”
Community advocate David Lima also addressed the Board, saying he wanted to see an end to all high-speed pursuits.
The charges reviewed by the Board are alleged violations of the General Police Orders (GPO), the procedural guide for exactly how Cleveland Police is to do its job (see Section 3.2.02 for Vehicle Pursuit guidelines). After the decision is voted on to “sustain” a charge, the Board determines its disciplinary recommendation the same way – members decide and then vote on what level of violation the sustained charge is based on, what policy was violated and its severity. The levels of violation and guidelines for corrective action are found in the Disciplinary Matrix, the manual used by Cleveland Police to determine disciplinary measures.
All of the charges sustained by the Board in this case were determined to be Group I violations. According to the Disciplinary Matrix, a Group I violation is, “conduct that has a negative impact on the operations or professional image of the Division or that negatively impacts relationships with other officers, agencies or the public… Corrective action shall range from non-disciplinary Verbal Counseling to a 5-day suspension without pay.”
The Board’s recommendations will now go to Police Chief Calvin Williams who will make the final decision on corrective action. Prior to Tuesday’s CPRB meeting, Cleveland Police formally disciplined two of the involved officers, Miller, and Officer Felica Doss, who was not named in Mason’s complaint, and said their disciplinary actions stand regardless of any upcoming recommendations made by the Board.
CPD’s vehicle pursuit policy has come under fire after a report released last year by then-Inspector General Christopher Viland recommended the department update its policies, and Chief Williams stated in a Clleveland City Council Safety Committee meeting earlier this year that he did not agree with those findings.
This article was written with information obtained from Documenters.org, a news service providing coverage of local government meetings, currently operating in Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. For more information, visit the City Bureau website.