CLEVELAND — Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams abruptly announced his resignation on Thursday afternoon during a police awards ceremony at Public Hall.
"This is my last official act. I'm going to miss you guys," Williams told the audience of police officers. He later told 3News' Sara Shookman that his final day as Cleveland's chief of police will be on January 3, 2022.
Calvin Williams became Cleveland's police chief in 2014. He retired and then was rehired in 2018. Williams began his career with the Cleveland Division of Police in 1986.
Williams says he made his decision to step down once Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson announced that he would not run for another term in May. "If you're out the door, then I'm out the door with you because I don't think I can work for anyone else to be honest," Williams told Jackson at the time.
While walking over to Public Hall, Williams decided to announce that he would be stepping down during the awards ceremony. "I thought, 'What better place then being with my folks?' Plus to also let them know that this would be my last official act."
The move by Williams to resign is not a surprise. Cleveland Mayor-elect Justin Bibb had made it clear throughout his campaign that he intended to bring new leadership to the Cleveland Division of Police.
When asked by 3News' Russ Mitchell if he would keep Williams at an October 14 town hall, Bibb replied, "No. I’m getting a new chief." His opponent, Kevin Kelley, added that he hadn't decided yet, but 'believed it's time for a change.'
More recently, Bibb told 3News' Mark Naymik on Wednesday that he would be looking internally and externally for Williams' replacement.
"I think there's a lot of great talent inside our department right now. I'm going to look far and wide inside our department and nationally for the right chief. Not to create a department that's mired in the status quo, but what does our department need to look like for the next 10, 15, 20 years? I want a chief that's going to work with me as the next mayor to chart that vision," Bibb told Naymik.
Following the awards ceremony, Williams spoke with 3News' Sara Shookman about his resignation. You can watch the interview below.
Among the most significant moments during Williams' tenure as Cleveland police chief was the fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Officer Timothy Loehmann on November 22, 2014 outside of Cleveland's Cudell Recreation Center.
"When that tragedy happened, I said that the worst thing that could happen is that a child to die at the hands of a police officer. I still think that way. We've put a lot of things in place to make sure that never happens again," Williams told Shookman.
Shortly after Rice's death, a Consent Decree was agreed upon by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Cleveland Division of Police following a 2014 investigation that found Cleveland police officials had violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law while engaging in certain police practices.
As a result, the Cleveland Division of Police is required to commit to ongoing engagement with the community and to make a number of fundamental changes to its policies, practices and procedures. Williams believes that he is leaving the department in good hands when it comes to the consent decree.
"We're pretty good," Williams said when asked by Shookman. "We just finished year seven and I think we're on track. We're in the assessment stage right now to where a lot of the things we put in place will be assessed by the monitoring team. I think we're on track."
A major change coming to the Cleveland Division of Police will be the implementation of a civilian-led commission to oversee police policies and discipline as a result of the passage of Issue 24. Williams is against the charter amendment.
"I don't think it's a good thing for the city of Cleveland as a whole and definitely not for the division of police," Williams said. "But we'll see. Our officers are professionals and we'll do what needs to be done to take care of the people in the city."
Williams broke down several times during his remarks at Public Hall as he looked back at several important moments during his seven years as police chief in Cleveland, including the Cavs' NBA Championship parade and Republican National Convention in the summer of 2016.
"I'm going to miss you because you do a great job," Willliams told the assembled group of officers at the awards ceremony. "You make us proud and you get out there and you do a great job for us day in and day out. People don't realize how hard it is, but I do. People have sacrificed their lives for this job."
And Williams also had a message for the people of Cleveland.
"I love this city. I love the people in it. I hope I've done you proud. I hope I've done you justice. The men and women in this division that go out and work hard every day love this city also. They want only the best for this city and we want your support," he told Shookman.
- Issue 24: A new era in police reform in Cleveland
- Mayor-elect Justin Bibb considering hiring police chief from outside Cleveland department
- Justin Bibb vs. Kevin Kelley: How the mayoral candidates grade the Cleveland Division of Police
- Leading the Land: Police reform proposal is clear dividing line in race for Cleveland mayor