MESSAGE FROM CHIEF ANNETTE MECKLENBURG TO CITY COUNCIL ON POLICING POLICIES (JUNE 15, 2020)
I want the community to know that as your Chief, I am committed to striving toward the best practices in law enforcement. Our community deserves nothing less from me and the Cleveland Heights police department. We recognize that to be effective, police departments can’t operate alone; we must have the active support and assistance of the community and in Cleveland Heights, that means the whole community.
High profile events like those of the last few weeks are not only deplorable, they foster mistrust between the police department and the community and especially the black community. I want nothing more than for every resident of this community to feel safe and well served by this police department and while we are not perfect, I am proud to serve with a group of dedicated law enforcement professionals who help me carry out this mission every day. That said, we in the law enforcement community across this country and in Cleveland Heights have more work to do. Even with the best of intentions, systemic racism perverts our society and our institutions and we are continuously working toward a more just and equitable community which includes our policing.
I want to take a moment to tell you about some of the things we are currently doing. I am committed to working with the City leadership and the community to do better and to do more and I believe we are starting from a good place. First, know that we are an Ohio Collaborative Law Enforcement Certified Agency. The Ohio Collaborative was created in 2015 to create uniform minimum standards for all law enforcement agencies regarding use of force, including deadly force, and hiring and recruitment. The standards are broken into three groups and require recertification to attest that the agency is still employing the standards as prescribed. When I became Chief in 2016, we pursued and were granted group 1 and group 2 certification levels, which involved creating and implementing policies around use of force, recruitment and hiring, community engagement, and body-worn cameras. We are set for recertification of these policies next week. Group 3 includes policies around bias-free policing and misconduct. These policies have already been drafted and are under review by the City Manager and Law Department and we would expect to submit for group 3 certification very soon.
Recent scrutiny from our community and from citizens across the country have identified additional standards for some of these policies that exceed the state of Ohio’s minimum commitment. We have begun a review of our existing certified policies as well as additional policies to look for opportunities for improvement. For example, the Ohio standards fall short of “8 can’t wait” recommendations and we believe we can incorporate many, if not all, of those standards into our policies.
We know that when it comes to any type of policy, they are only as good as they are practiced and enforced. We are fortunate to have our own academy that provides us access to trained instructors for in-house training and learning. We are reviewing our academy schedule as well as other virtual learning opportunities in light of the safety protocols we are all practicing during the current pandemic to determine additional training needs and capacity. From an accountability perspective, you should know that the City Manager and I enforce the rules fairly, consistently, and in accordance with our policies. We, of course, expect everyone to adhere to our use-of-force policy. Any time force is used, the incident is reviewed for compliance and when we have found issues with an officer, we have disciplined and even terminated the officer.
In some cases, we are already exceeding minimum standards, like the pre-employment testing we do for officers that includes psychological testing that evaluates things like the severity of implicit bias and the propensity for using excessive force. We have been doing this testing for many years and this is not a standard practice across police departments. I have eliminated several individuals from our hiring process as a result of the information we learned through this process and the thorough background checks we conduct.
We are hearing from our community that current policies aren’t enough. They expect more and better from us and we can do more and better. We welcome the feedback we have been receiving and we hope that residents can join us on June 25th for our virtual forum.
Current CHPD Policies and Guidelines can be viewed at https://www.clevelandheights.com/1302/Policies-and-Practices. These policies are being reviewed and updated at this time.