Cleveland Reportedly Settles Lawsuit by Justice Department Over ‘Unconstitutional Policing and Excessive Use of Force’

© John Minchillo/Associated Press Demonstrators pause on Saturday at the entrance to the Cuyahoga County Justice Center as police stand guard during a protest against the acquittal of Michael Brelo, a patrolman charged in the shooting deaths of…
© John Minchillo/Associated Press Demonstrators pause on Saturday at the entrance to the Cuyahoga County Justice Center as police stand guard during a protest against the acquittal of Michael Brelo, a patrolman charged in the shooting deaths of…

The city of Cleveland has reached a settlement with the Justice Department over what federal authorities said was a pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force, people briefed on the case said Monday.

The settlement, which could be announced as early as Tuesday, comes days after a judge declared a Cleveland police officer not guilty of manslaughter for climbing onto the hood of a car and firing repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black. The verdict prompted hours of protests and reignited discussions about how police officers treat the city’s African-American residents.

For Cleveland, a settlement avoids a long and costly court fight and the appearance that city leaders are resisting change. Mayor Frank Jackson faces a recall petition from city activists who say, among other grievances, that he has not done enough to prevent police abuses. The Justice Department has called him a full partner in its effort to improve the police department.

The details of the settlement were not immediately clear, but in similar negotiations in recent years, the Justice Department has insisted that cities allow independent monitors to oversee changes inside police departments. Settlements are typically backed by court orders and often call for improved training and revised use-of-force policies.

A spokeswoman for the Cleveland Division of Police referred questions to the mayor’s office, which said it would not comment on Monday. Dena Iverson, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also had no comment.

The Justice Department has opened nearly two dozen investigations into police departments during the Obama administration. Federal investigators found patterns of unconstitutional policing in cities including Seattle, Newark, Albuquerque and Ferguson, Mo. Federal authorities recently announced they would investigate the police department in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died of injuries he suffered while in police custody.

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Source: The New York Times | MITCH SMITH and MATT APUZZO

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