University School - Hunting Valley
Instructor: Molly Klaisner
The Cleveland Officers Lack of Integrity
The Cleveland Officers Lack of Integrity
Tamir Rice is a 12-year-old child who was shot carrying a toy gun in 2014 by officers. The year before, an innocent couple had 137 bullets fired at their car for the noises coming from the backfire of the exhaust. In 2021, Innes Kirk Lee Jr. was shot dead for attempting to flee on foot. As the Cleveland Officers continue to roam with the attitude of indifference rather than integrity, the long list of preventable murder will indefinitely continue to grow. The list of unnecessary police shootings is already endless, and it is incredible how the same mistakes from years ago remain in occurance to this day. The death rates by police in Cleveland are remarkably higher than in other cities. As explained by The Washington Post, since 2000, there have been 48 people killed by Cleveland police officers (Felton). Since police officers were unnecessarily escalating situations that could have been resolved- the key reason for Cleveland's high death rates, the city introduced a voluntary agreement to revise its use-of-force policy in 2003. The city expanded training, and adopted a very thorough process of evidence review in cases of police shootings. However, for some unknown reason, this agreement ended in March 2005. Immediately after the discontinuation of the use-of-force policy, Cleveland death rates began to rise again. Due to the City's lack of effort to control its Officers, Citizens decided to take matters into their own hands.
Integrity is the most important factor in being a part of the police force; however, Cleveland officers do not meet the required expectation. Journalist Emmanuel Felton from The Washington Post argues, "Cleveland officers engaged in a pattern of firing their weapons even when people posed no threat, used lethal force out of proportion to the 'resistance' they met from suspects, and unnecessarily escalated incidents." The trend of using lethal force is always justified by "resistance." How can officers explain that those who "resist" are always the minority? Although some officers may meet the expectation, others treat certain people prejudicially. In fact, all examples of police brutality involve victims of color. When dealing with those of color, Cleveland officers are constantly and immoderately escalating situations, those which they are supposed to do the opposite. As a result officers in Cleveland are often misusing their weapons. It is contradictory that an item built for the protection of oneself is being used to destroy the life of others. This common misuse raises an important question: is there or will there ever be a valid reason for the use of a firearm when one's life is not threatened? An officer might answer yes, as in their perspective they give valid reasoning. However, this answer is flawed due to "unnecessarily escalated incidents." If an officer should have the audacity to declare so much as a 12 year old boy holding a toy as a threat to their own life, a boy who probably stood motionless as he caught sight of the very guns that would end his life, than an officer may not speak of valid reasoning with regard to the use of a firearm.
There exists a kind of grass root movement by local organizations around Cleveland trying to innovate Cleveland into a safer area. Reporter Maria Mcginnis from The Land explains that "The Citizens for a Safer Cleveland coalition aims to give a diverse board of community representatives the final say on police discipline. This act aims to put police accountability on the ballot and give a diverse board or community representatives the final say on police discipline." Activists are trying to develop a mandate that would grant them the authority to overrule the city's police chief and fire the officers who fail to meet the required expectations. This mandate will establish two civilian-led oversight panels (Felton). In other words, citizens will be given insight on the decision-making process, which will migrate Cleveland to take the power to investigate misconduct out of an office within the police department and give it to the Civilian Police Review Board. Although the Police Review Board has existed since 1984, its power has always been limited, as they could only offer suggestions on discipline. However with the amendment, the board would be given the power to investigate complaints against officers and directly mete out punishment. The passing of this ballot would not only increase investigation of police shootings, but it would also increase punishment for misbehaving officers. However, critics may argue that this is not the greatest idea due to the possibility of giving power to an untrustworthy community, resulting in the making of wrong decisions which can cost an officer, who meets the expectations, their job.
A more organized solution to the lack of integrity shown by Cleveland officers is called "Issue 24," an initiative that would grant individual investigations of police misconduct, and therefore place police accountability indirectly into the hands of citizens (Cleveland.com). This solution would bring local officers to a greater level of integrity. Giving it a try could be what brings the City of Cleveland to a peaceful state. Jackson, a retired police sergeant argues, "While officers may resist the changes initially, they will adapt over time" (The Land). He admitted that he, like many of his peers, initially resisted having to wear a body camera. In time, he came to see how body cameras benefitted both the community he served and himself as an officer. Jackson explains that he had an experience with a new regulation in which he resisted but eventually came to appreciate. In addition, Issue 24 could be useful to not only Cleveland citizens but the reputation of officers as well. It is important to receive positive insight from someone who previously held a high position in the police department in order to persuade critics to allow issue 24 to succeed. If one takes the opposing side, they will fear a bureaucracy that may easily be abused, similar to the Citizens for a Safer Area Coalition. However, Michael Indriolo from The Land explains that "the proposed charter amendment would create a permanent community police commission to replace the existing commission that remains in effect only as long as the Consent Decree (court approved deals between the justice department and local government agencies) does. The new commission made up of mayor-appointed representatives from various Cleveland communities and police organizations would have the final say on police discipline, policies, and training programs." In contrast to what the opponents skepticize, representatives from various Cleveland communities and police organizations were mayor-appointed, meaning these representatives aren't selected at random. According to Robert Higgs from Cleveland.com, the charter would finally hold police accountable for protecting and ethically serving the community (Higgs). The charter would also address problems that the city has been unable to fix during the six year period under a federal consent decree governing police reform. This charter could finally resolve the issue local officers have been struggling with: integrity. Issue 24 is a system in which citizens have power over the police department which fundamentally changes the system of oversight (Higgs). Issue 24 allows citizens to take the lead role in disciplinary oversight, recruiting, and training. Issue 24 is an innovation that could lead Cleveland into a greater era of peace. If issue 24 is granted we as a society can live in peace without concern of integrity.
Although Cleveland is going through many problems with the lack of integrity by officers, the solution is clear: we have to start thinking about the future of Cleveland so that every citizen gets the equal treatment they deserve. On the other side of the city, people are getting arrested for just walking down the street; meanwhile, for those of us in the suburbs, we are sitting comfortably at home with our families without a worry. Comfort and respect are something that all people deserve whether they live in a wealthy part of Cleveland or not. With issue 24, the new commission made up of mayor-appointed representatives from various Cleveland communities and police organizations would have the final say on police discipline, policies, and training programs. The acceptance of Issue 24 will provide a Cleveland that has never been seen: a civilized, respectful, and organized community inhabited with people who feel safe. As a former west side Cleveland citizen myself, I have witnessed firsthand biased arrests, and feared doing basic activities like walking to the tea shop or even to the store. Knowing how it feels to fear that a Cleveland officer may not hold themselves accountable puts me in a position where I can understand the struggles people like Tamir Rice's family have to go through. We should try harder to bring Cleveland officers to a place where they are able to hold themselves accountable, but in the meantime, let's start holding the police accountable for their responsibilities such as protecting and serving the community with Issue 24.