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Police officers charged for 137 shots

Disciplinary hearings scheduled for Cleveland Police officers who did not shoot, but were involved

James W. Wade III | 8/6/2013, 8:29 p.m.
Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Michael McGrath at a press conference talking about the police officers that will be charged in the chase. Photo by James W. Wade III

During a press conference last week, Mayor Frank Jackson and Police Chief Michael McGrath announced 75 Cleveland patrol officers were found in violation of departmental rules and regulations for their roles in a deadly November police chase ending in a deadly shooting.

Disciplinary hearings for the officers will begin immediately, according to McGrath. Nineteen officers face charges that could lead to a suspension of 10 days or more, he said. Those officers will be disciplined by Public Safety Director Martin Flask. McGrath will oversee remaining disciplinary hearings.

The charges against the officers involve insubordination, joining the chase without permission and falsifying duty records. The chief let everyone know that none of the violations are serious enough to warrant termination.

While making his statement McGrath said 277 officers were on duty the night of Nov. 29th. A review committee determined 104 were involved in the deadly pursuit. Jackson acknowledged the chase and shooting have damaged the public’s trust in Cleveland’s police force.

The Nov. 29 chase ended when officers fired 137 shots into a car occupied by Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. No gun was found. It was clear that the police shot at each other and some were shooting right in the car.

“We have to let people know what we’re doing at every step so that they can see that we’re handling this right and that they should have the expectation that this will not happen again,” said Jackson.

McGrath did not release the officers’ names and would not speculate on what led to what the attorney general called a “systemic failure” during the chase until a review is complete.

In June, one supervisor was fired, two were demoted and nine others suspended following disciplinary hearings about their involvement in the case. But McGrath said the numerous violations of department policies confirmed by the months-long review does not alter his opinion that officers are adequately trained, an assertion that drew criticism from Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

Jackson shared what he called the unprecedented release of information from DeWine’s office. It included thousands of pages of interviews with individual officers, saying it should have been withheld until after the investigation was completed. Jackson said, before the DeWine’s press conference, he received a call from DeWine expressing his feelings about what happened.

“If those two victims were dogs, there would have been more attention paid to them and they would have been given more consideration to due process,” Jackson said.

Jackson said Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell were denied due process when they were killed in a hail of police bullets.

Jackson has not been silent about the shooting. From the mayor’s dialogue with the media, it was clear he had concern for the two victims. Jackson said any failures during the chase resulted from police supervisors and rank-and-file officers who didn’t follow department procedures. There was a failure. It was not systemic. It was a failure on the part of some supervisors and some patrol officers to do what they knew they should have done, and what they were trained to do, Jackson stated.

Jackson is asking the public to be patient. He wants the public to be satisfied with the process, even if they don’t like the results. These results represent legal action pertaining chase only and not the shooting.

The Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Tim McGinty is still investigating this matter and will be coming out with his office findings soon.