Issue 24: Major Hurdle Passed as Judge Approves Consent Decree Modifications

By Yugan Sakthi

This is part of an ongoing series of monthly articles about the implementation of Issue 24 and how you can become involved in the fight for our public safety. Read last months update on  theclevelandobserver.com or in last month’s issue of the paper.

March saw an important step forward in the new administration’s implementation of Issue 24 (now referred to as section 115 of the City Charter). District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. approved all necessary modifications to the consent decree as in the text of section 115 during a court hearing on March 17.

Recall that the Department of Justice (DOJ) entered Cleveland into a “consent decree” in 2015 to reform the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) after a two-year DOJ investigation found patterns of unconstitutional policing.

Because the Issue 24 reforms are much stronger than the DOJ policies in the decree, yet the latter hold more power, the two needed to be reconciled. On March 11, the City and the DOJ agreed to make the necessary changes. They submitted a modified consent decree to

Judge Oliver, who then approved it on March 17. Of the major changes was rewording the consent decree to make room for the newly reestablished Community Police Commission (CPC).

Under the newly amended Charter, the CPC is no longer a court entity but a permanent agency of the City. It has the final say on police discipline, the authority to set and enforce officer training practices, and other expanded powers.

Because the decree does not prohibit the expansion of the CPC’s authority, most mentions of the CPC in its text did not require major modification. Judge Oliver agreed it was the right move.

What did require modification were policies mentioned in the consent decree that used to fall under CDP authority that would now fall under the CPC. Yet, instead of changing mentions of “CDP” to “CPC,” the City and the DOJ changed them to “the City.”

It is a reconciliation that could potentially alleviate future legal troubles for the court, the City, and the DOJ.

Matthew Richmond, a reporter for WCPN Ideastream, called the proposed changes “clever . . . I think they found the simplest way that should satisfy all interested parties to make room for the new CPC before the City is finished with the consent decree.”

Looking Forward

Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association (CPPA), has still vowed to file a lawsuit at the first instance the CPPA feels that the new oversight committees are treading upon CDP’s investigative and disciplinary territory.

The CPPA’s and FOP’s union contracts expired on March 31. Negotiations will be underway soon for new contracts.

City Council’s budget discussions are also underway.

A meeting on March 2 included budget discussions on the CPRB, OPS, and CPC.

If you have any questions or would like to request specific information to appear in next month’s Issue 24 update, please do not hesitate to reach out to The Cleveland Observer at info@theclevelandobserver or on the website under “Spot It! Post It!” at the top of the page.