63 Cleveland patrol officers suspended from November deadly chase

Union will fight suspensions

CLEVELAND - Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGrath announced the results of disciplinary hearings for patrol officers involved in the Nov. 29, 2012 deadly chase.

A review concerning the officers who took part in the shooting itself will not be complete until the criminal investigation by the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's office is over.

McGrath said 277 officers were working that night and of those, 104 officers were involved with the pursuit in some capacity including blocking intersections or trying to catch up with the pursuit.

Of the 104 officers,  75 broke rules and 63 were suspended for speeding and failing to get permission to join the pursuit.

Four officers were given ten day suspensions, the rest were suspended between one and six days.

There were also two written warnings, nine letters of non-disciplinary letters on re-instruction and charges against three of the officers were dismissed.

The police union plans to fight the suspensions during arbitration hearings. Jeffrey Follmer from the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association said the union has an 80 per cent success rate in having suspensions dismissed.

Follmer said officers who win their appeals will get paid for their time off.

District commanders gave the letters of suspension to the patrol officers Tuesday. Many of the officers will begin their suspensions immediately.

But so many patrol officers were suspended, some of the suspensions will have to be scheduled so there's no shortage of officers on the streets.

Disciplinary hearings started in August and September. McGrath said his deputy chiefs assisted him with the hearings for officers found in violation of departmental rules and regulations for their roles in the chase.

Public Safety Director Martin Flask held hearings for 26 patrol officers.

The charges against the officers involve insubordination, joining the chase without permission and falsifying duty records.

None of the violations are serious enough to warrant termination, McGrath said.

In June, one supervisor was fired, two were demoted and nine others suspended following disciplinary hearings about their involvement in the chase.

The Nov. 29 chase ended when 13 officers fired 137 shots at a car, killing Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, who were inside.

The chief said a recent policy change that forbids officers from firing at or from moving vehicles may not have prevented the shootout. The policy change was the result of a comprehensive study of Cleveland police policies and procedures in regard to use of force. The study found the department's policies are sound and comprehensive.

Statistics show that from June 2006 until June 2013, use of force incidents by the Cleveland Police Department have declined.

As a result of the study, Chief McGrath plans to create a program to help any officer who was on an extended leave "assimilate" back into the department when they return. McGrath said the number of officers who have taken extended military leaves has increased since the start of the Iraq war.

McGrath also plans to make it easier to identify problem officers by creating a paperless system to monitor complaints and reports of worrisome behavior.

McGrath said the department will also change the way it trains supervisors starting in 2014. Supervisors will be separated from patrol officers during portions of their training and be given additional instruction on leadership and management practices.

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