CLEVELAND -- The U.S. Department of Justice today launched an investigation into whether there is a widespread practice within the Cleveland Police Department of officers using excessive force during their encounters with citizens.
Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and other community leaders had asked for the Justice Department investigation following the Nov. 29 fatal shooting of two motorists in a hail of bullets fired by officers who had pursued the suspects for 26 minutes.
"We are focused on CPD as a whole," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of the Civil Rights Division. "We are not looking at individual officers."
Perez says the investigation will focus on the allegations of excessive force by officers as well as whether the Police Department has the proper training, supervision and oversight to prevent such actions.
It will also look at "whether officers are held accountable if they stray from departmental rules and regulations and constitutional norms," said U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach, who oversees the federal prosecutors in Cleveland.
Perez said the review is expected to take "as long as necessary," although Justice Department personnel will be in Cleveland for months to speak with community, political and police leaders about their concerns.
The end result of the DOJ investigation will determine whether reforms are needed in the department. It is a civil review not a criminal one.
Jackson says he welcomes the review. He says the investigation is necessary to maintain trust between the people of Cleveland and the officers who are sworn to protect them.
"If there are ... suggestions to us that we need to do better in areas, then we will gladly change because our goal ... is to have a professional police division," Jackson said.