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Cleveland and DOJ Reach Police Reform Agreement in 'Defining Moment' for City

Cleveland has agreed to work with the Justice Department to reform the city’s police department following numerous killings of unarmed citizens by officers.
May 26, 2015, 6:25pm
Photo by John Minchillo/AP

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Cleveland officials announced Tuesday that they have reached an agreement with the US Department of Justice to reform the city's police department following months of protests over numerous killings of unarmed citizens by officers.

Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson announced the details of the settlement Tuesday afternoon and said that the terms of the DOJ agreement, formally known as a consent decree, would become "part of our DNA."

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The 105-page document outlines provisions to overhaul multiple areas of the city's police department, including procedures to hire more officers of different races, training in crisis intervention, and equipping all officers with body cameras by year's end, the mayor said.

"This is not a program," Jackson said. "This becomes a way in which we do business. This becomes part of our DNA. Finally, this is really a defining moment for the city of Cleveland. It will define who we are as a people and as a city."

The settlement announcement came just days after a judge cleared Michael Brelo, a white police officer, of wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of two unarmed black suspects, a man and woman who led police on a high-speed car chase through the city in November 2012. The chase ended in a hail of police gunfire in a school parking lot.

Protests erupted over the weekend after Brelo was acquitted of all criminal charges in connection with the incident. After other officers had stopped shooting, Brelo stood on the hood of the suspects' car and fired his service weapon 15 times at 43-year-old Timothy Russell, the driver, and 30-year-old passenger Malissa Williams.

Related: Judge Acquits Cleveland Cop Who Stood on Hood and Fired 15 Rounds Through Windshield at Unarmed Couple

At least 71 people were arrested Saturday during the mostly peaceful demonstrations that followed the announcement.

On Tuesday, Jackson said "the generally peaceful response" to Brelo's acquittal shows that "Cleveland is a city where peaceful dialogue can make change."

Cleveland's settlement is aimed at curbing the pattern of excessive force that has plagued the city's police department. A DOJ investigation detailed close to 600 high profile incidents between 2010 and 2013. One of those cases was the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a recreational area near his home when a rookie cop shot him moments after arriving on the scene.

Jackson said that the city will be tested when decisions on the cases of Rice and Tanisha Anderson, who died after being restrained by police in a prone position, are reached in the coming weeks.

"This agreement will serve as a catalyst to ensure" the city will not have to go through such decisions again, Jackson said.

Follow Liz Fields on Twitter: @lianzifields