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:
- 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.
Residents of Greater Cleveland
Sign this letter by writing your full name and city in the comments section below.