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Cleveland police officers face discipline, including suspensions, for role in chase

9:56 AM, Aug 13, 2013   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- Disciplinary action will be taken against 75 Cleveland police officers involved in the deadly police chase Nov. 29, which started in Cleveland and ended in East Cleveland in a torrent of bullets.

Speaking at Cleveland police headquarters, Chief Mike McGrath announced the action being taken against the officers involved only in the chase, and not the shooting.

Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were killed after police opened fire on their car, firing 137 shots.

Neither was armed.

Violations by the officers in the case include getting involved in the pursuit without their supervisor's permission to leaving the city limits, and, most seriously, in a few cases, providing false reports that didn't match what monitoring devices in the officers' cars showed.

McGrath called what happened that night "a tragic pursuit."

"When the officers started their tour of duty that evening, they started with good intentions," he said. "They had no intention to get involved with this.

"Then things happened."

Of the more than six dozen officers involved in the 23-minute chase, 19 are subject to temporary suspension -- their cases will be dealt with by the Department of Public Safety, while the other officers' disciplinary action will be handled internally in the police department.

None will lose their jobs.

Mayor Frank Jackson pointed out, "There were officers who obeyed and those who didn't. There were choices made."

In June, far more serious action was taken against police department supervisors, with one being fired, nine suspended and two demoted.

It's been eight months with no decision on discipline against the rank-and-file officers, but the chief says things are progressing as they should.

"Folks always says, 'When, when, when.' It's not about when, when, when, it's about right, right, right."

Jeff Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said today's announcement was designed to appease concerned and outspoken citizens.

He said the announcement was bad for police morale.

Some officers didn't get out of the chase when told to, he said,  "Because they were looking out for their fellow officers. Overall, in the division, there's disappointment."

Attorney Terry Gilbert, who represents one of the victim's families, says the large number of police officers involved in the chase, and against whom some action is being taken, shows the police department has a systemic problem.

"It reveals the depth of the lack of control in that department," he said.

He added that Jackson and McGrath are "in denial about the ultimate issues of accountability."  

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