By Brett Gillin
The U.S. Justice Department recently asked for public opinions and input to help them craft a policy designed to address use of excessive force by police throughout the United States. While many debate the need for sweeping policy changes, some community organizations are taking the request to heart. Two such organizations, working in unity, are the Cleveland Clergy Alliance and the Greater Cleveland Congregations, who recently responded to the Justice Department with a list of suggestions.
The Chairman of the Cleveland Clergy Alliance, Pastor Lorenzo Norris, made his organization’s statement public on February 5th according to this article in Cleveland.com. The statement, drafted by the Greater Cleveland Congregations, was split into four major parts: Constitutional policing, reorganizing internal accountability, community engagement, and financial sustainability.
The first section on “Constitutional Policing” suggests that police departments must revise their policies on “Bias-free policing, use of force, and stops, searches, seizures and arrests.” They call for a swift and complete end to any sort of racial-profiling and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, language, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.
The second section of the statement suggested that the Justice Department require at least 1,500 hour of training on community policing methods, constitutional law, interacting with the mentally ill, bias-free policing and the use of technology.
Norris went into greater detail and made his recommendations stronger as the document went on. For example, Norris suggested that police departments require prospective officers to have their references checked more thoroughly than they are today in every new hire. In addition to that HR change, he suggested that the police step up efforts to recruit new officers from minority neighborhoods.
The third section details the Congregations’ request that the police begin becoming even more involved in the community that they serve. This would include stepping up neighborhood foot patrols, mini-stations, and generally greater visibility of police by the citizens. The Congregations also suggest that an independent auditor is brought in on any complaint of misconduct and to periodically review the department’s practices.
Finally, the document spells out that the changes they suggest will cost money, and that the city and the Justice Department will have to budget for the changes and fund them whenever necessary. Norris followed up the original document with a condensed version that spelled out, in even greater detail, the demands.
One of the demands that is getting the most attention is the recommendation to systematically collect and review police data to be sure that all recommendations and policies are being followed and met. This new and greatly increased level of oversight might not be popular among the law enforcement community, but it seems to be gaining traction, at least among the 20,000 people who count themselves as members of the Greater Cleveland Congregations.