What the Cleveland Police Department's 'excessive use of force' looks like



U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, right, speaks during a news conference Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, in Cleveland.
The Justice Department issued a report Thursday that says Cleveland police officers use excessive and unnecessary force far too often, often violating the constitutional rights of citizens.
Rather then focusing on the legal standings of each individual action, the investigation worked to determine if the department had an overall issue with excessive use of force. The answer was yes, Cleveland police officers engage in a pattern of "unconstitutional use of force."
Mash took a look at some of the evidence that the Justice Department considered for its report. When taken as a whole, the report concludes, the incidents "make up a pattern or practice of constitutional violations." It reads:
We determined that, as part of the pattern or practice of excessive force, officers fire their guns in circumstances where the use of deadly force is not justified ... We also discovered incidents in which CDP officers draw their firearms and even point them at suspects too readily and in circumstances in which it is inappropriate ... officers strike people on the head with their guns in circumstances that do not justify deadly force. CDP officers use less lethal force — including Tasers, OC Spray, and strikes to a suspect’s body — against individuals who pose little, if any, threat ... Collectively, these practices make up a pattern or practice of constitutional violations.
Examples from the report, below, provide some of the most damning evidence of these violations of individuals' constitutional rights.

Sergeant shoots at fleeing crime victim

In 2013, a sergeant shot at a man fleeing a house where he was being held against his will. The man, who the report calls "Anthony" was wearing only boxer shorts while fleeing from a house where officers knew armed men were holding several people. According to the report, "The sergeant’s use of deadly force was unreasonable. 
It is only by fortune that he did not kill the crime victim in this incident."

The report also noted that the sergeant had "no reasonable belief" that the man posed immediate danger, concluding that "a reasonable officer in these circumstances should not have shot at Anthony."

Officer shoots lawfully armed man cooperating with police orders

An officer shot a man who was lawfully carrying a weapon during a 2012 confrontation. According to the report, two officers stopped a man who they noticed was carrying a gun.
The man, called "Brian" in the report, raised his hands above his head and informed the officers that he had a concealed handgun license. While one officer moved to handcuff Brian, the other officer fired a shot that struck Brian in the abdomen causing life threatening injury. The City of Cleveland settled a lawsuit with Brian who alleged that excessive force was used against him, which the Justice department says "diminishes transparency and merits serious review."

"Numerous witnesses reported that Brian was attempting to cooperate with officers and began lowering his hands in response to an officer’s order that he place his hands behind his back," said the report. "Use of deadly force in these circumstances was unreasonable."

Off duty officer pistol whips shoplifter

The report outlines how Cleveland police strike people in the head with guns when the use of lethal force is unwarranted, which the Justice Department calls "an extremely dangerous practice." The strikes increasing the risk of an accidental discharge, which has happened on more than one occasion involving CDP officers, says the report.
In 2011, an officer struck an unarmed man in the head with his gun after the man, "Fred," had committed a minor, nonviolent offense. Fred had tried to shoplift from a supermarket when an off duty officer working a second job at the supermarket ran after him with his gun drawn. The officer hit Fred on the left side of his head with his gun, forced him to the ground, and handcuffed him. The assault resulted in a laceration that required four staples to close and again constituted the use of deadly force against a man who was not armed.

Officer repeatedly punches a handcuffed 13-year-old in the face

An officer punched a handcuffed 13 year-old boy in the face several times while arresting the juvenile for shoplifting. The teen, who was handcuffed in a police car began to kick the door and kicked an officer in the leg.
"In response, the 300 pound, 6’4” tall officer entered the car and sat on the legs of the 150 pound, 5’8” tall handcuffed boy," said the report. "Harold was pushing against the officer with his legs, but was handcuffed and posed no threat to the officer. Nevertheless, the officer continued to sit on Harold and punched him in the face three to four times until he was “stunned/dazed and had a bloody nose."
The use of force was "designed to punish the boy rather than to control him," claims the report.

Officer tases a mentally ill deaf man who committed no crime

According to the report, "A CDP officer tased a suicidal, deaf man (called Larry in the report) who committed no crime, posed minimal risk to officers and may not have understood officers’ commands." The man's mother called the police department for assistance because the bipolar man who communicates through sign language was holding broken glass against his neck and threatening suicide.
"Without confirming that Larry could communicate through notes, [officers] wrote him a note saying that he needed to go to the hospital. Larry waved his hands 'aggressively,' which the officers interpreted as refusal,' said the report. "Larry continued to struggle, so the officer tased Larry in his chest."
The Justice Department noted that the man was not a threat to officers and he was not suspected of any crime.

Officers uses Taser on man suffering from seizures, strapped to a gurney

In another incident involving the use of a Taser, a Cleveland police officer tased a man who was strapped to a gurney in an ambulance at the time and was "suffering a medical emergency," because he was verbally threatening officers. The man was having seizures and officers assisted him into an ambulance, where he was strapped onto a gurney. Once strapped down, the man became angry and threatened to punch the officers and a medic.
"He then tried to unstrap himself from the gurney and balled his fist, stating that he would prefer to walk home. One of the officers then unholstered his Taser, told him to calm down, and threatened three times to tase him. Mark continued to try to stand up while threatening to beat the officer," said the report. "The officer then drive stunned Mark on his top left shoulder. Mark had committed no crime, was strapped down and was in the midst of a medical crisis."
The full report can be seen below.




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