Three months after a Cleveland mayoral commission identified weaknesses in the way the city handles missing-person and sex crimes cases, sex crimes detectives finally have been issued cell phones. Those who previously were not granted Internet access now have their own e-mail accounts — helping them stay in closer contact with victims and their families, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The developments are among the first steps since Mayor Frank Jackson pledged to overhaul police procedure and training after the Imperial Avenue serial killings and the arrest of suspect Anthony Sowell.
As the city tackles the to-do list outlined by the commission, some question whether Jackson is living up to his promise to maintain transparency in the process. Last year, Jackson formed a special commission after the bodies of 11 women were found in and around Sowell’s Imperial Avenue home. Sowell has pleaded not guilty to killing the women and raping several others. Questions about whether police responded appropriately to assault victims and the families of the missing arose soon after the bodies were discovered. Many victims complained to the commission at a series of public hearings that police heard their stories with skepticism and insensitivity. The three-member commission issued a 900-page report in March, offering 26 recommendations to improve police investigations, technology, partnerships with other agencies, and the department’s relationship with the community.