I work with the police every week, and the vast majority are caring trustworthy people. We worked with Commander Andrés González who was one of the best police supervisors ever. He won the trust of the the social service community and thus the people that we represent. He is now the chief at CMHA and represents the best of the force. I worked with a police officer who threatened to arrest an EMS driver who was refusing to take in a homeless guy who needed immediate medical attention to the hospital. The EMS worker said that the guy was faking it and was a "frequent flyer" and he was "done with him." The health care worker said that if the homeless guy did not go to the hospital he would lose his leg. The Police officer stepped into demand the EMS worker do his job or he would take him into custody. We were thankful, and the homeless guy was fine after a week in the hospital. We have patrolmen that we can call anytime during the day for help and they call us when there is a homeless issue. Many officers deal in myths about homeless people, but are still well meaning despite their outdated thinking. There are a small part of the police force in Cleveland who give the CPD and the City a black eye and are angry or view the public as the enemy.
The 13 officers involved in the Russell/Williams killing, the two officers involved in the death of Tamir Rice, and the Cleveland Police who were caught using improper force are the worst of the force. With the Homeless Coalition there were two officers down in the Flats who would regularly harass homeless people. We saw police in the 1990s using unconstitutional harassment of homeless people to drive them out of downtown. We had uniformed officers at the Community Women's shelter regularly threatening women with arrest or the use of a stun gun to enforce shelter rules. We have had complaints to our office that one uniformed officer would take women at the shelter home at night. When the Coalition sued the City in the 1990s over sweeps of homeless people, I had one police officer follow me in my car and then threaten me with arrest for opening my car door into traffic when I was parked at a parking meter on Lakeside. Many homeless people report excessive bullying by police officers to try to make them disappear from the public. We have had police cut up tents and respond with violence and threats when a complaint is called in about a homeless person sleeping rough. These few officers make the whole force look bad, but my issue is that these poorly trained angry officers never get criticized by the union or other police and the City has a hard time firing them.
Steve Loomis, Cleveland Patrolman's Association union president, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that the forthcoming settlement with the US Justice Department was "disheartening," and added that "I think we've done an incredible job here." After digesting the consent decree that the City signed with the Justice Department Loomis said,
"This is a political agenda," he said. "This has nothing to do with the actions of the men and women of the Cleveland police department."
No one could ever say the CPD were doing an "incredible" job here. I understand representing your union members and I understand that these high profile cases have really hurt the image of the Cleveland Police, but these statements just make things worse for the men and woman who wear the badge. Just don't say anything, Mr. Loomis, you are not helping here. What is it going to take for the union to see a problem and admit that changes need to happen. A little boy was killed only seconds after the police arrived on the scene neither protecting nor serving the Cudell neighborhood, and the union does not see a problem?
People keep saying that if the victims of these crimes had just given up, none of these incidents would have happened. This is unfair to the victims since no one can ever prove this and no one can confirm whether some of these people did try to give up and were killed anyway. We do not know what happened on the Shoreway or those side streets downtown or in that elementary school in East Cleveland. We don't know if these people tried to give up and were killed anyway, and we do know that 12 year old with an adolescent brain was not given much time to surrender before he was shot.
What is it going to take to regain our trust? This is not a occupying force attempting to keep the peace in Iraq. These are citizens and taxpayers of Cleveland some with good intentions and others with bad motives and a large number facing desperate decisions to survive and get out of poverty. Starting in front of 2100 Lakeside shelter when the chase began for Timothy Russell's Chevy Malibu on that fateful November 2012 evening, the Police have been dealt a body blow to their credibility. These three high profile deaths have exposed deep distrust in the Department by those paying their salary. They have revealed that many in the Department felt that they were at war with taxpayers and citizens. We saw that in pockets of the CPD Black and Latino lives did not matter and victims were treated as less than human. We saw why women were not willing to come forward to tell police about the predator who was living over on Imperial Avenue. We saw that many white officers loved the job security and comfortable living the salary provided but did not like the majority black taxpayers who paid their salary and did not want to be forced to live in those communities that they were patrolling.
People keep saying that if the victims of these crimes had just given up, none of these incidents would have happened. This is unfair to the victims since no one can ever prove this and no one can confirm whether some of these people did try to give up and were killed anyway. We do not know what happened on the Shoreway or those side streets downtown or in that elementary school in East Cleveland. We don't know if these people tried to give up and were killed anyway, and we do know that Tamir Rice was not given much time to surrender before he was shot.
When an institution is exposed as having lost the trust of the people who pay their salary, it takes a concerted effort and a lot of apologizing to regain that standing. After the excesses of the Hoover controlled FBI, the agency was neutered and weakened for decades. The September 11 attacks exposed the horrible oversight of airport security and led to the scrapping of that system with a whole new agency created. The repeated scandals involving the Secret Service has put that agency under the microscope. The Army Corps of Engineers has never recognized its role in the drowning of New Orleans after Katrina, but is distrusted across the United States. We know that the first thing that must happen is that everyone must admit there is a problem including the union chief. Until there is recognition of the problem, there is no way to heal. The falling down drunk does not see the problem with his excessive drinking until he sobers up to see the trail of destruction. The union and the rank and file need to sober up to see the results of some of their member's abuse of power. I can't think of an example of when an organization fell so far down and was able to regain the trust of the public. It is going to take new leadership, a new name, a new contract with the City, and some serious penance to show that they deserve our trust.
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