Cleveland: Government Agreement Ain’t Gonna Stop Killer Cops—People’s Struggle Must Continue!

June 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On May 26, a legal settlement was announced between the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the City of Cleveland. This agreement, called a consent decree, stems from a DOJ report released last December that found a pattern of unconstitutional, abusive and improper practices by the Cleveland Police Department.

Stop police from murdering people

The city’s mayor, Frank Jackson, said he hoped the agreement would calm tensions. News of this consent decree came only three days after a judge delivered a not guilty verdict in the case of Michael Brelo, the Cleveland cop, who fired 49 shots into the car of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, and protests against this outrageous decision.  The city is also waiting to hear whether any cops will be indicted for the November 13, 2014 killing of Tanisha Anderson, who suffered from schizophrenia, and the November 22, 2014 police killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

The agreement allows the city to take specific actions without admitting fault or guilt for the situation that led to the lawsuit, and a time frame will be negotiated in which the consent decree has to be carried out.

The 105-page agreement is being hailed as a “blueprint” for overhauling policies that “promote excessive force, demanding more accountability and transparency from the police when justifying use of force” and “mending a frayed relationship between police and the community.” []

But three things need to be said about what this consent decree is really about, which will be discussed in this article.

1. NONE of what’s in the DOJ report would be coming out if the people had not REFUSED to accept these instances of police murder and brutality—in Cleveland and around the country; if there had not been powerful protests against police murder and brutality in Cleveland and in cities throughout the U.S.

2. This so-called blueprint doesn’t come close to addressing—much less actually providing a real way to stop—police murder and brutality. It should tell you something right away that the DOJ report actually states, “We are making no finding regarding racial profiling” and that there is NO mention at all in the consent decree of racial profiling.

3. These kind of consent decrees—which are being done between the DOJ and many other police departments around the country—are meant to deliver the message that the people should stop protesting, leave things to the government and put their faith in dead-end reforms that amount to trying to get the plantation owners’ slave-catchers to stop chasing down and brutalizing escaping slaves.

Many people are seriously questioning the legitimacy of the police and the whole INjustice system, which lets killer cops off time after time. The DOJ findings of abuse by police departments and the consent decrees are meant to restore credibility and legitimacy to the police departments and the system as a whole—while perhaps making a few changes, but keeping the essential repressive apparatus intact.

DOJ Report Reveals Crimes Against the People

The DOJ report on the Cleveland Police Department, issued on December 4, 2014, based on an examination of nearly 600 use-of-force incidents from 2010 to 2013, says it found what it calls “systemic deficiencies and practices” and “insufficient accountability, inadequate training, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community.”

Translated into REAL life, what this actually reflects is a sliver of truth about the fact that there is systematic police MURDER, BRUTALITY, unjustified stops, arrests and the wanton violation of people’s Constitutional and human rights. There are pages and pages of examples of cops pulling their guns on people, firing at people, beating people, tasing people—many times for no reason at all—sometimes purely as retaliatory punishment, because the person had talked back or tried to run away and many times when people were already handcuffed.

A Consent Decree of Dead-End Reforms

The 105-page consent decree purportedly addresses these abuses with guidelines and measures the Cleveland Police Department will have to follow. The settlement bans pistol-whipping people; firing warning shots; using force against people for talking back or as punishment for running away; using unnecessary and excessive deadly force on people who are already handcuffed, including tasers and chemical sprays; and using excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis.

First of all, it is obscene and says something about the totally illegitimate nature of the police that these things are a routinely done by the police and that they have to be told they cannot do these things—many which are already explicitly illegal.

Second, it is an outrage that the U.S. Department of Injustice—which has been presiding over all these crimes—tells these local police departments they can’t break the law and violate people’s Constitutional rights, and then calls this “progress” and “reform.”

There are about a dozen city police departments that have entered into consent decrees with the U.S. Department of Justice since the federal agency created its first in 1997 (to monitor the Pittsburgh police).

But what effect has this actually had on even slowing down the number of shootings and killings by police of unarmed people? What effect has it had on killer cops going free? There have been thousands of fatal shootings at the hands of police since 2005 and only 54 officers have even been charged. And most of these were cleared or acquitted in the cases that have been resolved. (See "Thousands Dying as Killer Cops Go Free")

Take the example of the consent decree between the U.S. government and the LAPD signed in 2001. In 1999, officers assigned to the LAPD's Rampart Division were implicated in all kinds of crimes against the people, found to go back decades—including false arrests, illegal searches and seizures, physical abuse of suspects, evidence tampering and perjury. The very legitimacy of the cops was seriously eroded. The federal officials launched an investigation and threatened to sue the city for complete control of the LAPD unless a consent decree was signed. The agreement eventually agreed upon required the LAPD to adopt reforms similar to what’s in the Cleveland agreement. Over the years LAPD officials called to be let out of the agreement, arguing that they were already doing everything called for AND that they needed the freedom to run on their own without federal oversight. In May 2013, in a brief three-line order, a U.S. district judge lifted the consent decree on the LAPD, saying it had fully complied with the agreement.

Does anyone think that this consent decree put even a tap on the brakes to stop LAPD cops from murdering and brutalizing people? In fact, at least 230 people have been killed by the LAPD since January 1, 2000.

Even as federal reports on police abuse and consent decrees are being issued, the U.S. government is not only NOT doing anything about the fact that killer cops are getting away with murdering unarmed people time after time. It is upholding this. In a single week the system let killer cops go free in Cleveland (Brelo); Grapevine, Texas; and St. Louis, Missouri; the Supreme Court ruled in a case of a woman in San Francisco that cops cannot be sued for shooting at severely mentally disabled people who allegedly "threaten violence." (See “In One Week: Murdering Police Go Free All Over the USA: Murder and Abuse by Police Must Stop”)

In 2004, the Cleveland Police Department submitted to a previous DOJ consent decree—agreeing to a list of reforms, including a ban on shooting at moving vehicles ”unless there is imminent danger of death or serious injury.” The agreement lasted one year then expired. Maybe we should ask Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were chased by 100+ Cleveland area police,13 of whom then shot 137 bullets into their car, what effect such reports and consent decrees have had on stopping police murder. But we can’t ask them because they are dead.

The truth of the matter is the U.S. government won’t and can’t do anything to put a stop to police murder. These killer, brutalizing cops ARE doing their job, the job this system needs them to do—to maintain social control, especially among a section of Black and Latino youth whom this system has no future for and greatly fears as a potentially volatile social force. The people must continue the struggle against police murder, taking to the streets, determined in our demand: Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail! The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell!



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