Cleveland reached a settlement with the Justice Department over what federal authorities said was a pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force, the New York Times reports. The settlement comes shortly after a judge declared a Cleveland police officer not guilty of manslaughter for climbing onto the hood of a car and firing repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black. The verdict prompted protests and reignited discussions about how police officers treat the city's African-American residents. For Cleveland, a settlement avoids a long and costly court fight and the appearance that city leaders are resisting change. Mayor Frank Jackson faces a recall petition from activists who say he has not done enough to prevent police abuses.
The details of the settlement were not immediately released. In similar negotiations, the Justice Department has insisted that cities allow independent monitors to oversee changes in police departments. Settlements are typically backed by court orders and often call for improved training and revised use-of-force policies. The Justice Department has opened nearly two dozen investigations into police departments during the Obama administration. The U.S. found patterns of unconstitutional policing in cities including Seattle, Newark, Albuquerque and Ferguson, Mo. In Cleveland, DOJ investigators said last December that police officers unnecessarily used deadly force; used excessive force against mentally ill people; and inappropriately used stun guns, chemical sprays and punches. The report highlighted one case in which officers kicked an African-American man in the head while he was handcuffed and on the ground, then did not report using force in the arrest.