EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — East Cleveland City Council held an emergency press conference on Wednesday afternoon to request help from the Ohio State Highway Patrol and Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Office with a staffing issue that has come as the result of several criminal indictments in the department.
The request came just two hours after Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley announced that 11 former and current East Cleveland police officers have been indicted for allegedly violating civil rights and public corruption. The indictments, as well as previous indictments in the department, have left East Cleveland Police with just 20 active police officers.
Altogether, 16 current or former East Cleveland police officers have been indicted on criminal charges over the last seven months.
East Cleveland Police Chief Brian Gerhard told 3News' Emma Henderson that all active officers that were indicted have been suspended without pay.
Following the meeting, Mayor Brandon King thanked O'Malley for his efforts and pledged the city's full cooperation in the ongoing criminal probe. He also sought to deflect blame from his own administration, which made the decision to promote Scott Gardner to police chief years ago. Gardner has since been replaced after he himself was arrested on corruption charges, and prosecutors say all of the alleged crimes revealed today took place under his watch.
"We promoted Scott Gardner based on the former chief's recommendation," King told reporters in a prepared statement. "Unfortunately, here in the city of East Cleveland, we can only promote from within the department to the chief's position. Twice, we have asked our city council to pass legislation allowing us to go outside of the city and do national searches for chiefs."
Those same constraints were in place when King appointed Gerhard as Gardner's replacement, first on an acting and eventually on a permanent basis. The mayor said the city was "lucky" to have Gerhard, an East Cleveland native, in the top job.
"He is committed to rebuilding this department, its reputation, and this city," King declared. "We agree with Prosecutor O'Malley that Chief Gerhard is the right person to rebuild this department and give confidence back inside and outside of this city."
The most recent charges stem from 11 separate incidents that occurred from February of 2020 and July of 2022. Altogether, the 16 indicted East Cleveland officers have been involved in 31 separate incidents ranging from June 2018 to July 2022.
King, who survived a recall election last November, wouldn't speak on how the county sheriff's office might help the understaffed police department. You can watch the councilmembers' full press conference in the video player below.