US & Canada

Cleveland police department agrees to carry out federal reforms

Protesters took the streets of Cleveland over the weekend after a police officer was acquitted in a manslaughter case Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Protesters took the streets of Cleveland over the weekend after a police officer was acquitted in a manslaughter case

The Cleveland police department, which has been criticised for aggressive tactics against African Americans, has agreed to strict federal reforms.

Mayor Frank Jackson said on Tuesday that the police will adhere to the most exacting standards in the US.

The US Department of Justice settlement comes after a series of cases where officers killed unarmed people.

The rules prohibit officers from using force against people for talking back or as punishment for running away.

Pistol whipping is prohibited, as is firing warning shots, the agreement says.

An independent monitor will track the police department's progress.

The department will be required to collect data on use-of-force incidents, will be banned from neck holds, and won't be able to use Tasers targeting head, neck or genitalia.

Officers will also undergo mental health consultations.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Tamir Rice, 12, was killed by police after officers mistook his toy gun for a real one
Image copyright AP
Image caption The windshield of Timothy Russell's car was used as evidence in the trial of Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo

If the city does not carry out the terms of the settlement, known as a consent decree, a federal judge has the authority to demand them.

Mr Jackson said all police officers will have body cameras by the end of 2015.

The DOJ report does not lay out this specific goal about body cameras but states that the department will arrange for 'body-worn camera video downloads.'

Cleveland's police force most recently came under criticism in November 2014, when an officer fatally shot 12-year-old Tamir Rice after mistaking his toy gun for a real one.

The caller who contacted police that day told them the gun was "probably fake".

Cleveland police are still investigating Rice's death.

Protesters took the streets after a judge acquitted white police officer Michael Brelo on 2012 charges of voluntary manslaughter of Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, two black people.

Mr Brelo fired multiple rounds into the car Williams and Russell were in after police chased the car.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The Cleveland Police Department will now be subject to strict federal oversight

Just after Rice's death, federal investigators released a report on harsh and abusive police practices in Cleveland.

In another case, 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson, who had a heart condition and bipolar disorder, died in Cleveland police custody when she was handcuffed and restrained in prone position.

More than 71 people were arrested in Cleveland over the weekend during mostly peaceful protests.

"Today marks a new way of policing in the city of Cleveland, one built on a strong foundation of systemic change," Mr Jackson said of the agreement with the DOJ.

The agreement comes on the heels of racial tensions and police-involved shooting deaths of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, Eric Garner in New York City and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Baltimore and Ferguson's police departments have also came under close scrutiny of the Department of Justice.

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