CLEVELAND -- A lawsuit filed today claims Cleveland police use excessive force on suspects and then "routinely lie" about their conduct with the "backing" and "at times direction" of their union president.
Cleveland police officers use excessive force on suspects and then "routinely lie" about their conduct with the "backing" and "at times direction" of their union president, according to a lawsuit filed today by a man who says he was beaten by officers following a New Year's Day car chase.
The lawsuit, filed by the attorney of Edward Henderson, accuses the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association and its president, Steve Loomis, of "habitually promoting and encouraging...violations of police department policies and procedures that mandate strict and accurate reporting of uses of force."
It also accused the union of instituting a "code of silence" requiring officers to remain silent about their knowledge of arrests involving excessive force.
Officers who "turn in, fink or report their fellow officers...will quickly find himself/herself without backup and support on the street from other officers when that officer needs help," according to the lawsuit filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court.
Loomis called the lawsuit "meritless," saying it was "filed by a grandstanding attorney...in order to provide a criminal defense for his defendant.
"There's no basis in fact," Loomis said. "He is a defendant in a criminal case and this is just a feeble attempt to muddy those waters."
In January, Henderson told the Investigator Tom Meyer in an exclusive interview that several officers beat him so severely that he suffered a shattered eye socket and detached retina and a broken nose.
Channel 3 News reported 41 officers in 28 police cars and the police helicopter were involved in a high-speed chase on New Year's Day that included Henderson going the wrong way on Lakeshore Drive before he was stopped.
Four police officers were charged with assault and suspended without pay in connection with the beating. They are Christopher Randolph, Paul Crawford, Martin Lentz, and Kevin Smith. Those charges have been dismissed pending a review of the case by the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Henderson's attorney, Daniel Chaplin, said he filed the lawsuit because he's "still trying to figure out who hurt (Henderson)."
Chaplin said he is convinced one of the officers "wants to step forward" and disclose exactly what happened that night but is being pressured not to do so by the union.
"It's time to break the code of silence," Chaplin said.
A helicopter captured the incident on videotape, but it has not been released publicly because the city prosecutor's office got a court order to prevent it.
Henderson's attorney, however, accuses Loomis of having viewed the video despite the protective order, "knows who assaulted Henderson" and has "failed to report his knowledge" to the prosecutor's office.
Loomis declined to address the specific accusations regarding Henderson's arrest until he could read the lawsuit.
The lawsuit asks the court to order Loomis to report his knowledge of the arrest following the stop, release the helicopter videotape to the public and order the city to investigate the police union and its "code of silence."
The lawsuit is also asking for compensatory and punitive damages for Henderson related to the officers and union's conduct.