Cleveland deadly police chase internal review released

Review only covers pursuit policies, procedures

CLEVELAND - An internal review into the deadly November chase turned shooting in Cleveland was released today.

The review notes that the majority of officers on duty followed protocol during the chase, but the numbers include more than 200 officers who did not participate in the chase at all.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Commander Chura with CPD's special use of deadly force investigative team, said all 329 officers on duty Nov. 29, whether or not they participated in or supervised the pursuit, were interviewed.

About one-third of the force on duty, or 98 Cleveland officers and 15 supervisors, had a role in the chase.

  • Officers on duty: 61 percent did not violate policies/procedures; 36 percent were in non-compliance
  • Supervisors on duty: 65 percent followed policy/procedure; 13 percent were in potential non-compliance

Emergency response driving policy:

  • 72 percent of officers were in compliance, 25 percent had potential violations, 3 percent were not applicable and one person is under suspension and was not interviewed
  • 67 percent of supervisors on duty did not violate policy or procedure, 11 percent were in non-compliance, 22 percent were not applicable

As Chura went through a timeline of events in chronological order that fatal night, he noted specific instances where violations occurred:

  • Policy states patrol cars should not pursue a vehicle unless they notify dispatch, give a description and direction of travel, etc., but that never happened.
  • Officers in multiple districts were told to stop the pursuit and did not follow supervisors' orders.

During one portion of the pursuit, officers did not have their lights or sirens on as people were seen walking in the video shown and other cars were visible.

"Safety should not be secondary," Chura said. "That was apparent disregard for this policy."

Policy also states that no more than two cruisers should be involved in a pursuit, unless it's "well-articulated" or "unusual."

Sixty-four police officers were involved in the chase/shooting that ended at Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland that night with 137 shots fired and Timothy Russell and passenger Malissa Williams dead. Both had cocaine in their systems.

Top speeds during the chase reached 125 mph, "which may also be a policy violation," Chura said.

“This review will help us (police department) on a better path to help the community,” said Cleveland Police Chief Mike McGrath. "Overall, the majority of supervisors and officers who were on duty that evening followed proper policies and procedures...I will review the report immediately and officers found in violation of policies and procedures will be held accountable."

McGrath commended the officers who did not violate policies/procedures, saying "we recognize the responsible decisions they made in the stressful circumstances of this incident."

“I wouldn’t call this a perfect chase, no,” McGrath said.

Officers and supervisors who violated policies and procedures face a wide variety of discipline, including a written reprimand, 10 to 30 days suspension, or termination.

"It just depends on the violations," McGrath explained.

When asked how he would respond to concerned residents about officers not following their own supervisor's orders, he said, "I feel terrible about that."

Meanwhile, the case remains in the hands of the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office where a grand jury will determine if any criminal charges should be filed relating to the chase.

In February, the Ohio Attorney General's Office released findings from its investigation that showed several departmental and procedural errors in how Cleveland police officers handled the incident.

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