[JURIST] US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] announced [press release] Thursday that a civil rights investigation [DOJ findings, PDF] by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] into the Cleveland Division of Police [official website] discovered "a pattern or practice of unreasonable and unnecessary use of force." The investigation, which began in March 2013, was sparked by a rash of high-profile use of force incidents and the demands of citizens and local governments in the Cleveland area. The investigation provided sufficient evidence to establish reasonable cause to believe that Cleveland police officers "engage in a pattern or practice of unreasonable and in some cases unnecessary force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution." According to the report, the pattern or practice includes: unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force and less and lethal force, and excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis. In response to the allegations of unconstitutional use of force, the DOJ and the city of Cleveland signed a statement of principles binding them to develop a court enforceable consent decree to that must include an independent monitor to oversee and enforce reform.
The DOJ's report is particularly timely considering an incident in November where a Cleveland police officer shot [BBC report] dead a 12-year-old boy who was carrying what was later revealed to be a replica gun. The DOJ's release of the report on use of force in Cleveland comes the same day as the Attorney General's announcement [JURIST report] that the DOJ has launched a civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who was killed last summer after being placed in a choke hold by a white New York City police officer during an arrest. The announcement was made shortly after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict the officers in Garner's arrest. A week early a grand jury in Ferguson Missouri decided not to indict police officer Darren Wilson [JURIST report] in the shooting death of Michael Brown [USA Today report], an African American teenager.