Sign our Open Letter!

If you are a resident of greater Cleveland, thank you for signing this letter by writing your full name and city in the comments section below. All signatures will be delivered to Cleveland Public Safety Director Michael McGrath after June 30, 2017.

This letter was written by SURJ NEO’s Community Police Commission working group.

Open Letter to Cleveland’s Safety Director: Embrace High Standards for our Police

June 10, 2017

Dear Director McGrath:

Your role as Director of Public Safety, among other things, is to administer discipline concerning members of the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) who have violated departmental policy.  This is an important and solemn responsibility.

All eyes were on you last month as you decided termination was the appropriate discipline in the case of Timothy Loehmann. This was appropriate, because the actions which took Tamir Rice’s life violated department policy, resulted in severe harm, and do not represent what the community expects from the Cleveland Division of Police. Loehmann’s use of deadly force in this tragic case called for no other disciplinary action but termination.

Officer Garmbach too should be disciplined at the level of termination. Their combined actions on November 22, 2014 do not represent what quality policing – constitutional, community-centered and problem-focused – would entail. Upholding this officer’s worst actions will return a risk factor to our streets and parks in the summertime when children play, and this will further deteriorate the trust and reputation of the police in Cleveland.

Garmbach failed to maintain any safe distance when approaching a 12-year-old boy, and he advised Loehmann wrongly when he advised him to have his gun drawn and in his lap before ever coming on the scene. These actions completely precluded evaluating the risk and de-escalating the situation. The impact of these omissions, whether caused by implicit bias or overt levels of racism, is unacceptable. We will no longer accept police behaviors which cause such violent impact in our city.

As we grieve for our neighbor Tamir Rice, we reiterate the important new outcomes from the consent decree process thus far. All police officers are now expected to demonstrate de-escalation, the proportionality standard, using distance and cover, tactical repositioning, and age-appropriate (developmentally-informed) practices including communication.

With community input, written standards for acceptable use of force have been revised. Current definitions for acceptable “use of force” are found in the division’s new policy (General Policing Order) approved by federal district judge Solomon Oliver in January 2017. Specifically, the following must be demonstrated in addition to “objective reasonableness” prior to any use of force, for that use of force to be warranted according to the department’s internal policy:

  • Proportionality
  • Necessity
  • All possible attempts at de-escalation

CDP internal discipline must be correspondingly stronger to take into account these policy changes going forward. New expectations include, as recommended recently by the Cleveland Community Police Commission (CCPC) as part of the consent decree process, assurance to the public that collective bargaining by the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association (CPPA) will not dismiss, neglect, or undermine appropriate administrative and criminal proceedings against officer misconduct.

CPPA has already moved to push back and seek to overturn your recent discipline of Loehmann and Garmbach by means of the union grievance process. This has happened so often in the past, that the system of administrative discipline is weak. If Loehmann will continue to be a Cleveland police officer while his union grievance is processed, we insist that he be assigned to desk duty. If Officer Garmbach continues on the force, he should not be on the street. Every lack of accountability creates trauma and insecurity on all sides.

Civilian oversight of the administrative disciplinary processes of our police (apart from criminal proceedings) is required by law. In essence, civilian oversight means you work for Samaria Rice. When her child is harmed, the fabric of our community is harmed. As members of the multi-racial public, we will not tolerate this breach any longer.

In closing, we ask you for the City of Cleveland to stay strong in not re-admitting Loehmann to the force, to consider a different disciplinary outcome for Officer Garmbach which will be safer for community residents, to work with supervising officers to impose penalties across all violations consistent with new policy standards, and to ensure that union bargaining does not undercut these important reforms.

Signed,

Residents of Greater Cleveland

Sign this letter by writing your full name and city in the comments section below.

74 thoughts on “Sign our Open Letter!

  1. The different standards of policing applied to people of color continues to be our national shame. You can still support police officers while holding them to high standards of integrity and ethics. I’d argue that is the only *true* way to support any important insitution. We can and must do better. – Sean Anderson, Westlake, Ohio

  2. Too many cops by breaking procedures create situations where they can claim fear for their lives.
    Stop escalations and de escalate situations as you’re trained and keep yourself safe so you dont have to feel the need to murder anyone.

  3. We have higher standards for Cleveland police. No Loehmann. No Garmbach. The consent decree matters. Use of force policy has changed.
    Detroit Shoreway – Cleveland

  4. I cannot say this any better, so I repeat: “In closing, we ask you for the City of Cleveland to stay strong in not re-admitting Loehmann to the force, to consider a different disciplinary outcome for Officer Garmbach which will be safer for community residents, to work with supervising officers to impose penalties across all violations consistent with new policy standards, and to ensure that union bargaining does not undercut these important reforms.”

    Sincerely,

    Myrtle (Mitsi) Wagner
    homeowner in 44113 for 47 years

  5. This is beautifully and thoughtfully written. Thank you for advocating for our beloved city and our citizens.
    Jessica Ang
    Lakewood, OH

  6. The city police are supposed to protect and serve the city’s residents. We cannot trust police to do so unless and until they demonstrate a real commitment to the reform process by applying it all the time and especially at times like this. Callie Dendrinos, Lakewood

  7. I emphasize this line in the letter: “Every lack of accountability creates trauma and insecurity on all sides”. The actions of these two officers put each member of the community and each police officer at increased risk of harm. Loehmann was unfit for the job before even being hired. He has proved that, and being terminated is the only logical step. Garmbach may be safe behind a desk, but his decision making is greatly called into question.

    We must stop allowing racially biased fears from being acceptable motives for murdering our black and brown friends. Please insist that police cultural shift is instituted. Only firing will make it a priority for all police officers.

  8. Until there are better laws to enforce, “good policing” will remain an oxymoron. Still, even within the context of enforcing unjust laws, most law enforcement officers seem capable of distinguishing between policing that maintains order and policing that is outright murderous. Officer Garmbach orchestrated a situation that made lethal force inevitable. It’s an outrage for him to remain on the force. He and Loehman must be kept to desk duty while this is resolved.

  9. Officers who fail to follow policy and best practices – particularly when engaging people of color – MUST be held accountable.

  10. I whileheartedly support this letter. I am appalled that this letter even needs to be written. Thise officers should have been let go long ago. Bridget Crist, Lakewood

  11. Better police policy and culture will make for a better work environment for police as well as improving safety for the citizens they are pledged to protect and serve. This is a system problem, and we all need to contribute to the solutions, plural.

  12. No one should be afraid of the police. Only high standards of ethical conduct and human compassion are acceptable.

  13. The residents of Cleveland have a right to expect police officers will be held to high standards of conduct. If the current system does not include accountability for actions, we need to work to improve it.
    Cleveland

  14. Let’s make this great city a shining example of justice and peace. Kathryn Matthews, resident of the city of Cleveland

  15. My Dad was a Cleveland Policeman for 35 years. If he were alive, he would be signing this letter.
    He despised violence of any kind and worked to create a department that was morally just and fair. He protected without creating fear. I am signing for me and for him.

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