Even When the Fox Guards the Chicken Coop...

Federal Report Reveals Illegal Brutality of Cleveland Cops

by Li Onesto | December 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On December 4, 2014 the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report on what so many people have directly experienced, seen with their own eyes, and already know: That just like so many other police departments all over the USA, the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) murders and brutalizes people all the time, especially African Americans.

After a 20-month investigation, reviewing 600 incidents in which force was used against people between 2010 and 2013, the DOJ found the CDP to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution in a significant percentage of such encounters.

This is a case of the fox that's guarding the chicken coop having to admit some truth—which is no doubt just the tip of an iceberg of crimes against the people. This is the United States Department of Justice that oversees the system's whole structure of INJUSTICE—under which two grand juries just let the murderers of Mike Brown and Eric Garner go free and where millions of Black and brown people—especially the youth—have been targeted, racially profiled, stopped and frisked, brutalized, and unjustly incarcerated. In the midst of a tremendous uprising among the people against all this, from coast to coast and with a fierce determination to fight for justice—the DOJ has issued this report on egregious crimes by Cleveland cops.

Modern-Day Lynchings

To put this report in context you need to start with two stories:

November 22, 2014. Millions have now seen the horrifying video. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice, who is African American, is playing with a toy gun in a Cleveland park. Someone calls 911 saying a boy has a gun that is "probably fake." A cop car drives up on the scene and two cops jump out. Within TWO SECONDS, Tamir Rice is shot DEAD.

November 29, 2012. More than 100 cops in over 62 cars chase Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in their car at high speeds for 25 minutes. The scene brings to mind plantation owners chasing their slaves. (Watch the video here.) Cops say they thought they heard a gunshot coming from the car, but it now appears the car was just backfiring. The chase ends in a parking lot where 13 cops fire 137 rounds into the car, Russell is hit 23 times, Williams is hit 24 times. Both are killed. About 37 percent of the on-duty force was involved in this murder. Yet a year and a half later, a grand jury indicted only one of the 13 cops with two counts of voluntary manslaughter.

The DOJ report shows that murder and brutality by Cleveland cops is NOT an anomaly. AND as people who are taking to the streets now all over the country in reaction to the latest grand jury decision around Eric Garner are saying—such cases of police murder only highlight that this is not just about this or that police department. This is a NATIONAL PROBLEM—a problem of the WHOLE SYSTEM, where the police kill people, especially Black and brown youth, and get away with it, time after time after time.

Brutality: Standard Operating Procedure

The 59-page DOJ report includes these overall findings:

In addition to killing people, the CDP brutalizes people—hits them in the head, kicks them, using the butts of firearms, Tasers, pepper spray, and fists—unnecessarily or in retaliation and many times this is done to people who are handcuffed and/or subdued in other ways.

In many cases this has been done to those who are mentally ill or in crisis and where family members called the police to come and just check on their welfare.

Cleveland cops "carelessly fire their weapons, placing themselves, subjects, and bystanders at unwarranted risk of serious injury or death."

In addition to recounting the murder Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, the report cites many examples of blatant abuse, including:

  • A sergeant fires two shots at a man wearing only boxer shorts after he escapes from a home where he and others were being held against their will. The sergeant tells police investigators that he shot at the man because he had raised an arm and pointed his hand toward the officer.
  • A woman is choked by an officer while handcuffed to a chair. A captain who received the case approved the use of force, saying that "although [he] would not normally condone grabbing a handcuffed prisoner by the neck," the limited space in the room and the woman's attempt to kick the officer justified the officer's use of force, the federal report states.
  • A man is stopped for walking with an open container of beer. One cop yells "gun" and points his gun at the man. The man raises his hands above his head and announces that he has a license to carry a concealed weapon. Another cop starts to handcuff the man, who lowers his hands a little below ear level—and he is then shot in the stomach.
  • A man pulled over by the police obeys the cops when they tell him to lie on the ground and spread his arms and legs. A police video shows that after he is restrained, prone on his stomach, officers begin kicking and striking him.
  • A 13-year-old is handcuffed and arrested for shoplifting. He begins to kick the door of the police car and the leg of one cop. A 300-pound cop sits on the boy's legs and punches him in the face.
  • One cop administers an electric shock to a man who is deaf and suicidal. The man has committed no crime and may not have understood the cop's instructions.
  • An officer uses his Taser on a 127-pound juvenile who was being held on the ground by two other cops. In another case, CDP cops are called to the home of a man with bipolar disorder. The man refuses to leave the bathroom and pulls away when a cop grabs his arm, so the cops tase him.

The report says these all point to a pattern of behavior that it is neither isolated nor sporadic and is tolerated and endorsed by supervisors. In fact, officers assigned to investigate such cases, the report says, "admitted to us that they conduct their investigations with the goal of casting the accused officer in the most positive light possible." Only six officers have been suspended for improper use of force in three years.

The report also notes there is an "us-against-them" mentality—pointing to a large sign hanging outside one station that identifies it as a "forward operating base," a military term used to describe outposts in war zones.

All this underscores the demand that people took up in Ferguson—and that has now reverberated in New York and in cities and towns from coast to coast: Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail. The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell!

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