By Rich Weiss, for Neighborhood & Community Media Association of Greater Cleveland
If you missed your chance to attend the May 12th public input meeting on the Cleveland Police Consent Decree, your input is still needed for the upcoming Consent Decree Community Conversation at 6:00 pm on June 9 (on Zoom). This public meeting (co-sponsored by the local chapters of the United Way and NAACP) seeks your opinions and questions on progress of the Cleveland Division of Police in the areas of Families and Communities Building Resilience.
Rosie Palfy, who is a a community advocate, a homeless advocate, a veterans advocate, and a member of the city of Cleveland Mental Health Response Advisory Committee since it was created in 2015, said, “I think that the event was really well received…and I’ve got nothing but positive feedback from the community. Strangers have reached out to me on social media, and it’s a small world out there. So somebody knows somebody, who knows me and they send me an email, and so I’m really glad I participated in it and I actually felt empowered afterwards. I was very pleasantly surprised at how it went.”
Carole Ballard, Director of Education and Training for the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) Board of Cuyahoga County, said, “I think it’s important for residents to get a chance to ask unique questions, because you may not go to the district community meetings, you may be aware of other ways that you can ask questions live. So it gives that opportunity to stay informed at a collective level and it gives a way for the community to be heard, and that’s important.”
Cleveland’s Mayor Jackson and several local community organizations requested the 2014 U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Cleveland Division of Police that found Cleveland Police engaged in law enforcement patterns and practices that broke Federal laws and violated the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Department of Justice cited patterns of excessive force, operational, and structural issues within the Cleveland Division of Police.
The City of Cleveland and U.S. Department of Justice entered into the Cleveland Consent Decree (a legally binding settlement agreement), which requires the Cleveland Division of Police to make specific, fundamental, and well-publicized changes to its policies, practices and procedures to correct violations and ensure Cleveland permanently adopt Constitutional law enforcement patterns and practices.
The Consent Decree also specifically mandates that the communities of Cleveland be involved in shaping new patterns and practices for the Cleveland Division of Police. Cleveland Division of Police compliance with Consent Decree patterns and practices is enforceable by a federal judge.
Bridget Brennan, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said, “As you know, this was the fifth conversation that we have had with the United Way and the NAACP organizing these community conversations. We’ve participated in all of them so far and the expectations are simply that we have an opportunity to engage with as many people in the community as possible in terms of getting out the department’s message about how important this Consent Decree is, the efforts we are undertaking to ensure that the mandates of the Consent Decree are complied with, and really just trying to make sure that those who are interested in having a voice in the process know how very welcome their voices are.”
Advocate Rosie Palfy felt, as a panelist, the conversation allowed room for her criticisms of the Consent Decree. She also felt community members, themselves, were able to impact the discussion through the reading of live text questions: “When I was able to watch it I saw the audiences’ questions, and I felt like the audience was listening to what I had to say, and they were asking questions based on concerns that I raised. That was my interpretation so I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with that.”The next meeting is at 6:00 pm on June 9, and the theme will be Families and Communities Building Resilience. To answer the call for your input, your concerns, and your questions, register for this or any of the six other remaining Consent Decree public meetings by visiting unitedwaycleveland.org.