Taking cover part of Cleveland’s police reform plan
Revised use-of-force policy sent to judge after DOJ investigation, Tamir Rice case
CLEVELAND — Cleveland police officers will be required to try using deescalation techniques such as taking cover as part of a revised use-of-force policy submitted to a federal judge Wednesday in an agreement over reforming the department.
The techniques are intended to help officers avoid having to apply lethal or nonlethal force. The policy also mandates that more stringent reporting requirements be met when force is used.
Changing how Cleveland police officers use force is a key element in an agreement between the city and the U.S. Department of Jus- tice. The sides agreed to a court-monitored consent decree in May 2015 after a DOJ investigation found a pattern and practice of officers using excessive force and violating people’s civil rights.
U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. will decide whether the new policies comply with requirements in the decree. If the policies are approved, officers are expected to begin training early next year. It’s not clear when Oliver will rule.
The idea of taking cover is something that might have saved the life of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy shot by a white officer within two seconds of a cruiser skidding to a stop next to him outside a Cleveland recreation center.
Tamir had a replica gun that shoots plastic pellets.
Rookie Officer Timothy Loehmann, who shot Tamir in November 2014, and his partner, Frank Garmback, were criticized for not stopping their cruiser sooner, which might have given them time to assess the situation. The officers were responding to a report about a man waving a gun and pointing it at people, but they weren’t told the caller had said the man was likely a juvenile and the gun likely wasn’t real.
Both officers were spared charges.
The proposed new policy says force must be necessary and “proportional” to the threat an officer faces.
The new policies also require officers to give first aid to people who are injured.
Loehmann and Garmback were criticized for not providing first aid to Tamir after the shooting. An FBI agent and trained paramedic who arrived about four minutes later was the first person to tend to Tamir.
The DOJ noted that it previously investigated excessive force in 2002 that led to a new use-of-force policy two years later.