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Cleveland Police Cited for Abuse by Justice Department

Cleveland Police Cited for Abuse by Justice Department

CLEVELAND — The Justice Department announced on Thursday that a nearly two-year civil rights investigation into the Cleveland Police Department had found a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” that resulted in dangerous and reckless behavior by officers, pointing out the kinds of problems that have angered black residents here and touched off demonstrations across the country in recent weeks.The abuses cited in the report included excessive use of force by the police involving not just firearms, but also less-than-lethal weapons like Tasers, chemical spray and fists, which were sometimes used for retaliation. The report also said the police had used excessive force against mentally ill people and employed tactics that escalated potentially nonviolent encounters into dangerous confrontations.Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., in a sign of the Obama administration’s growing concern about contentious police shootings and other use of force — and with demonstrations in New York; Ferguson, Mo.; and elsewhere — traveled to Cleveland on Thursday to announce the findings himself. The city has been roiled by the fatal shooting last month of a 12-year-old African-American boy by a rookie police officer.“Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments,” Mr. Holder said, “and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve.”The Cleveland report was released a day after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white New York City police officer in the choking death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner, 43, and nearly two weeks after a grand jury in Missouri decided not to indict a white police officer who fatally shot an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown. Both decisions led to demonstrations around the country, including violent protests in Missouri.The report also came as law enforcement officials in other cities were grappling with police shootings. In Los Angeles, the police chief ruled on Wednesday that three officers accused of improper force in the fatal shooting of an unarmed man during a car chase last year had violated department rules, determining that most of the evidence did not support the officers’ claim that a “deadly threat” was present. And a grand jury in South Carolina returned a murder indictment this week against a former police chief of Eutawville in the 2011 killing of an unarmed black man he was trying to arrest.Protests over the Garner case erupted again Thursday across the country, disrupting traffic and blocking streets in several cities, including New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington.In the wake of the protests in Ferguson, President Obama on Monday met with civil rights leaders and law enforcement officials at the White House, citing a “simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.” Afterward, the president announced plans to provide money for police officers to wear body cameras, tighten standards on providing military-style equipment to local police departments and form a task force to study ways to improve local policing.

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