The growing distrust between Cleveland police and the communities they serve can be attributed partly to how quickly officers draw their weapons without trying to use words to calm tense situations, concluded a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In addition to finding that police often fire their weapons recklessly, the report called out police for using deadly force or less lethal force as their first approach rather than a last resort, even in cases where a suspect is mentally disabled.
These practices have become routine in a police culture that encourages using force as punishment, a pattern that’s not only illegal but also puts a strain on police-citizen relations, the Justice Department charged. The recent case of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, killed by police at a city park, occurred after the DOJ probe concluded. The 20-month long Justice Department investigation found that in the rare instances when Cleveland officers verbally confront a suspect, they usually do so with their weapon drawn. That creates distrust between police and the community. The tendency for officers to pull out their weapon right away is deeply ingrained in police culture, said criminologist Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska at Obama.