ERIC SANDY / SCENE
Federal courthouse in downtown Cleveland
With a court filing late last week, the city of Cleveland followed through on its word to deliver some sort of plan by mid-December — a plan to tackle its years-long backlog of citizen complaints against the Division of Police.
The plan follows up on what Law Director Barbara Langhenry said in federal court last month
: that the city just needs more time
and more trained employees to tackle this problem, the problem being a backlog of nearly 400 open citizen complaints dating back to 2014 in some cases.
To address the backlog specifically, the city will hire an outside company to come in and clean up. The hope is that the backlog will be cleared within the next year (or by March 2019).
The police department's Office of Professional Standards, in turn, has increased its own staff. Those OPS staffers will address new citizen complaints in 2018 and beyond. Like Langhenry said last month, the OPS has six full-time investigators and six temporary investigators on-staff. Their workload is robust, to say the least.
The court filing and the specifics in the city's plan are a first step toward achieving one of the main goals of the consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice. "I look to the city to take the lead in coming up with standards and resolution of this issue," federal judge Solomon Oliver told city officials last month. "This has to be one of the highest priorities in the area of the consent decree. This is one that we cannot let fester."
If the outside company isn't getting the job done, the city will "revisit" its timeline and its plan. Regularly scheduled status hearings with Oliver will no doubt ensure what he hopes will be an open and clearly communicated effort on this front.