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Police Reforms for Cleveland After DOJ Report

CLEVELAND (CN) - An 18-month federal investigation of the Cleveland Police Department found "troubling patterns" of excessive and deadly force against suspects, Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday.

The 59-page report comes 19 months after the Justice Department opened an investigation in March 2013.

Just over a week earlier, on Nov. 22, Cleveland police shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice in the park where the boy had been playing with a toy gun.

Meantime, violent and destructive protests are coming to a head across the nation over recent killings by police of unarmed suspects in New York and Missouri.

Grand juries declined in recent weeks to issue indictments for either the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Thursday's report details several areas of concern within the Cleveland department, including inadequate training and a failure to implement "effective community policing strategies."

Speaking Thursday, Holder said the incidents "have sparked an important conversation about the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they serve and protect."

The AG said the investigation into the Cleveland PD "closely examined nearly 600 use-of-force incidents that occurred between 2010 and 2013, including incidents involving the use of lethal and less-than-lethal force ... [and] determined that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force."

Incidents mentioned in the report include:

"The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons;

"The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force, including Tasers, chemical spray and fists;

"Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check; and

"The employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable."

Holder emphasized that "the trust between the Cleveland Division of Police and many of the communities it serves is broken."

He went on to describe the steps being taken by the Justice Department and the city of Cleveland, "including an independent monitor who will oversee the implementation of sustainable reforms, assess compliance based on objective measures, and ensure that robust new policies and practices will result in more effective and constitutional policing."

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