The Justice department released the conclusions of its civil rights investigation of the Cleveland Police Department yesterday. Techdirt reports on some of what it says.
The DOJ’s report opens with the de rigueur statements about how dangerous policing is and how grateful the nation is that there are men and women willing to do this difficult job. But this is mercifully brief. The token belly rub doesn’t even last a full paragraph. The generic praise that makes up the two first sentences is swiftly tempered by these curt sentences.
The use of force by police should be guided by a respect for human life and human dignity, the need to protect public safety, and the duty to protect individuals from unreasonable seizures under the Fourth Amendment. A significant amount of the force used by CDP officers falls short of these standards.
And one more thing – the need and duty to minimize the damage done by their use of force; see previous post.
The next page briefly summarizes how the CPD falls short.
The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons;
The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force including tasers, chemical spray and fists;
Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check; and
The employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable and places officers and civilians at unnecessary risk.
That’s no good. Law enforcement isn’t warfare. They’re not supposed to be trying to kill us or take us out. They’re supposed to use the minimal force necessary, not the maximum possible.
The pattern or practice of unreasonable force we identified is reflected in use of both deadly and less lethal force. For example, we found incidents of GDP officers firing their guns at people who do not pose an immediate threat of death or serious bodily injury to officers or others and using guns in a careless and dangerous manner, including hitting people on the head with their guns, in circumstances where deadly force is not justified. Officers also use less lethal force that is significantly out of proportion to the resistance encountered and officers too often escalate incidents with citizens instead of using effective and accepted tactics to de-escalate tension. We reviewed incidents where officers used Tasers, oleoresin capsicum spray, or punched people who were already subdued, including people in handcuffs. Many of these people could have been controlled with a lesser application of force. At times, this force appears to have been applied as punishment for the person’s earlier verbal or physical resistance to an officer’s command, and is not based on a current threat posed by the person. This retaliatory use of force is not legally justified.
The bolding is Techdirt’s, I think.
It sounds all too familiar. Cops lose their tempers when people disobey them. I can sort of see why they would, up to a point, but the fact remains that that’s not part of their job and not what they’re supposed to do. The report makes clear that they’re trained to de-escalate, not escalate, but that’s not what happens.
People who want to be cops aren’t the kind of people who should be cops, it appears.