Justice Department Investigation Into Cleveland Police Department Found A Shocking Pattern Of Abuse

In one of the most high-profile recent incidents of black men dying at the hands of police officers, cops mistook 12-year-old Tamir Rice's pellet gun for the real thing. On Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder traveled to Cleveland, Ohio, to announce that the Justice Department found a pattern of "unreasonable and unnecessary use of force" by Cleveland police.

Opened in March 2013, the civil rights investigation evaluated the Cleveland Division of Police's use of force practices, after what the report called "a number of high profile use of force incidents and requests from the community and local government to investigate the division." The consistent occurrences of police abuse eroded public confidence in the police, said the report, and that the trust between local law enforcement and the communities it serves is "broken."

The report stated that among other practices, the department found Cleveland police to be involved in unnecessary retaliation, the use of deadly force, and excessive force on mentally ill persons. In his press conference, Holder said that the city and the federal government are working together to rectify the deficiencies through tighter policies on use of force and police oversight by an independent monitor.

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While the investigation was ongoing, an incident in which Cleveland police shot and killed Rice, a child, while he played with an air gun sent shockwaves and an outpour of grief throughout the country — further highlighting the discrimination of black men by law enforcement, and the urgent need to keep police forces in check.

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Although it isn't clear if the Justice Department speeded up their investigation after Rice's death, it certainly comes at a time when police brutality seems to be an unfortunate part of American society, following the similar deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. According to the New York Times, Holder said in his Thursday statement:

Accountability and legitimacy are essential for communities to trust their police departments, and for there to be genuine collaboration between police and the citizens they serve. Although the issues in Cleveland are complex, and the problems longstanding, we have seen in city after city where we have been engaged that meaningful change is possible.

Holder also noted that the investigation looked at close to 600 use-of-force incidents — lethal and non-lethal — from 2010 to 2013. Even more disturbingly, Reuters reported that the Justice Department found that supervisors tolerated and sometimes even endorsed use of unnecessary or unreasonable force.

Under Holder, the Justice Department has launched over 20 investigations into police departments across the country, that will hopefully begin to address what seems like a horrifyingly persistent national problem.

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