[JURIST] A US District Court judge on Friday approved an agreement between the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] and the city of Cleveland that is intended to reform the city’s police department. The agreement [JURIST report], a consent decree reached after five months of negotiation between attorneys for both sides, imposes [AP report] “a special obligation on [them] to the public,” according to Judge Solomon Oliver Jr., who called on both city offices and citizens to embrace the agreement. Efforts to create the consent decree began following a December DOJ report [text, PDF], which found that a pattern and practice of police officers in Cleveland using excessive force and violating civil rights existed, detailing incidents of force used on citizens. Under the newly signed agreement, the city and DOJ must hire an independent monitoring team in the next 90 days that will oversee how the different elements of it are put in place. The cost of implementation is expected to be between $900,000 to more than $2 million annually. The agreement includes a requirement that officers receive more training on bias-free policing as well as use of force.
Police use of force has been a controversial issue across the US recently. In May US Attorney General Loretta Lynch [official website] launched a federal civil rights investigation [JURIST report] into Baltimore’s police following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. Earlier this year Judge Edgar Dickson of the South Carolina Circuit Court declared a mistrial [JURIST report] in the murder case against a former police chief for the 2011 killing of an unarmed black man. After a grand jury decided not to indict [JURIST report] the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer who shot and killed Micheal Brown [USA Today Timeline], an African American teenager, there was a large uproar from the Ferguson community that led to mass protests and violence in some instances. The case had reached international news with Amnesty International reporting [JURIST report] human rights abuses by Ferguson Police in late October. In early October a federal judge ruled [JURIST report] that the police tactics used on protesters was unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction. The American Civil Liberties Union [advocacy website] also published a report [JURIST report] arguing that increased militarization of police forces is putting citizens at risk rather than protecting them.