The independent monitor overseeing an agreement to reform the Cleveland police department said in a federal court filing this week that he will ask a federal judge to address the city’s failure to create a detailed plan on how it will invest in equipment like cruisers and in-car computers to modernize a department that lags behind other cities.
“For too long, the men and women of the division have not received the equipment, resources, technology and infrastructure support to deliver the type and level of police services that the Cleveland community requires and values,” monitor Matthew Barge wrote in the motion filed Monday in U.S. District Court.
A planned Jan. 6 court conference will be the first time that Barge, who heads a team of police experts, will ask U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. to directly intervene in the agreement reached between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice after a DOJ investigation concluded in 2014 that Cleveland officers had shown a pattern and practice of using excessive force and violating civil rights.
Barge’s team, hired late last year by Cleveland, is responsible for helping the city implement all the requirements of the agreement, called a consent decree. In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Barge said the equipment plan submitted by the city after extensive discussions “lacks detail and rigor” and is not acceptable.
The city’s consent decree coordinator, former U.S. Attorney Greg White, said in a statement that the city remains committed to reform, including “providing for a modern, efficient, well-equipped and trained” police department.
While the consent decree requires new policies and training on use of force and treatment of the mentally ill, it also requires Cleveland to invest in new equipment and technology. The DOJ investigation said the department’s fleet of police cars was “old and in poor repair.” Two years later, there hasn’t been a marked improvement in that fleet, Barge wrote, with more than one-third of cruisers having accumulated more than 90,000 miles and an overall shortage of vehicles.
The head of Cleveland’ largest police union said in an interview that officers must sometimes wait at district stations for cars to return before they can begin their patrols. Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Steve Loomis said some cruisers are used 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“That’s a lot to ask of any piece of equipment,” Loomis said.
The plan submitted by the city also fails to address the shortage of computers in district stations and in-car computers used by police departments big and small that allow officers to do their jobs safely and efficiently, Barge wrote in the court filing.
The city’s police dispatch system needs to be improved as well, Barge told The Associated Press. Cleveland needs a system that allows dispatchers to send information, such as previous call histories, to in-car computers, which could help keep officers and the public safe, Barge said. Without a messaging system, officers are forced to write down information from dispatchers or enter it into their personal cellphones.
“That’s not the way contemporary policing looks or functions in any other major American city,” Barge said.