Students, community members gather to discuss police’s use of excessive force

For the second time in a decade, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reviewed the Cleveland Police Department. The review determined that the Cleveland PD has a pattern of using excessive force. On Jan. 22, a group of dedicated social justice advocates gathered on campus to discuss the department’s findings.

The Social Justice Institute at Case Western Reserve University hosted a review and following discussion, which was open to both students and faculty, but also the general public. The event attracted a wide variety of curious students, dedicated activists and concerned community members.

The night began with a break down of the 58-page letter from the DOJ to Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson by Edward Little and Shakyra Diaz. The duo broke down the findings of the 21-month investigation into understandable and relatable sections for those in attendance.

The report from the DOJ concluded that “the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

These are serious allegations on the department, and they echo the public outcry over episodes of police brutality in the city. The investigation is the second of its kind in just under a decade, as the DOJ conducted a similar investigation in 2004 with similar results.

Little and Diaz approached the report by looking at stories of just a few of those affected by the actions discovered and condemned in the report. The most moving included officers throwing and pinning down students to the ground outside their school while they protested the fact that the school let go of their teachers. Another included officers harshly subduing a deaf and mentally disabled individual when his family called the police due to a mental episode.

Following the overview of the report, the attentive crowd turned the question and answer section into more of a sounding board for the disgruntled community members. The discussion saw a wide variety of individuals questioning the findings and sharing opinions on the atrocities they have personally seen in the city.

The report, called by some present a “polite” overview of the true scope of the issue, served as a starting block for the calls for a reformed police department as well as for deeper social injustices.

The program was the first event of this semester and part of a larger plan of discussions and presentations on the social justice issues that plague the city of Cleveland.