Cleveland might use a few of its federal stimulus cash on police, however ought to it?

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Clevelands recent increase in violent crime could lead the city to spend a sizable chunk of its $ 511 million federal grant on police – but is this the best way to keep the city safer?

President Joe Biden, who signed the American rescue plan in March, announced in June that state and local governments could use their share of the economic funding to combat violence in their communities. The guidelines allow cities to hire more police officers – beyond pre-pandemic levels – as well as to buy more equipment and provide additional social services.

Pro-police organizations also advocate a share in economic funds. Lexipol, a company that trains and advises police services, is call on the city officials to dedicate part of the federal money to public safety.

But the subject is complicated. About a year after police killed George Floyd, the American Rescue Plan money came into the city coffers, and a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement included calls in expose the police and consider alternatives to the police. Both Cleveland and Cuyahoga County have made racism a public health crisis.

While some at City Hall are considering spending American Rescue Plan money on hiring police officers or buying police equipment, some activists don’t believe stimulus money should help police, which it has done so far as part of a declaration of consent with the Ministry of Justice since 2015

Ward 6 alderman Blaine Griffin, chairman of the council’s security committee, said Cleveland is considering spending some of its stimulus money on police and public safety, but it’s too early to estimate how much since the city is still in the initial phase is located Local residents ask how the money will be spent.

“I had a forum with my residents and other people getting feedback, and one of the most important things people really ask about is that we are really spending money on different types of safety tools,” said Griffin.

Griffin said he wasn’t sure the city would choose to use the one-time funding to hire more civil servants as it may not be sustainable to keep their salaries up after the federal grant expires.

“But I think there is a great opportunity for us to improve the technology and do things like cameras and drones,” said Griffin. He suggested buying StarChase devices that attach to cars to track potential suspects instead of chasing them, and ShotSpotter, a system that uses audio sensors and algorithms to detect gunfire and alert the police.

The Cleveland Police Department began using ShotSpotter technology in November. The company then came under fire a July report from Motherboard by Vice News suggested that police authorities have pressured ShotSpotter on several cases to alter evidence to strengthen criminal proceedings against accused shooters.

A spokesman for the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association did not respond to inquiries from and The Plain Dealer about the union’s advocacy for the police department to receive some of the city’s stimulus money. Sgt. Vincent Montague, president of the Black Shield Police Association, said he hoped some of the funds would be used for public safety.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever looked at the ambulances, but they’re a mess and they go from call to call every day,” Montague said. “There aren’t enough police cars for cops, and the cars need to be repaired. The officers are tired because there aren’t enough officers … And we need more training, not only for the police, but also for the fire and rescue services. “

In addition to training, hiring more civil servants, and repairing or buying vehicles, Montague wants part of the funds to support maternity leave for pregnant workers.

“Women who are pregnant are forced to use their own sick time. So when they return to work, their vacation time, their comp time, is burned up. I advocate the city that someone who is pregnant should be able to reserve a lot of time in their infirmary for their pregnancy so that they don’t have to burn all their sick time, “Montague said.

Griffin said one of the biggest challenges with spending stimulus money is making sure the investments are sustainable.

“That money needs to be made available by 2024 and spent by 2026,” Griffin said. “I know that in the past people had to be laid off when the funding ran out. Whatever we do, in using this to hire corpses and get more officials out on the streets, we have to be very careful to make sure we have a source of income to keep them in place after the money is away.”

Josiah Quarles, an organizer and executive at Black Spring CLE, said the money would be better used to tackle the root causes of crime.

“The police rarely get into a situation before it happens. The police generally don’t stop murders before they happen, ”Quarles said. “What we have to do is tackle the mess before it happens. And there are so many ways to do that, but we really refuse to dig and put the money into building healthy communities because healthy communities are safe. “

Quarles said he would like to see Cleveland’s stimulus money spent on tackling inequality in education, unemployment, access to affordable fresh food and supporting mental health.

“To combat mental crisis before they turn violent, we need to put people in touch with the resources they need – clerks who move people into homes – without the police,” Quarles said.

In November 2014, 37-year-old Tanisha Anderson’s family called the Cleveland police for help because she was experiencing a mental crisis. Anderson died in police custody on the driveway. No officers were charged with her death, but two officers were given a 10-day unpaid suspension and a written warning.

Griffin, of the council’s security committee, agreed that some emergency calls should be answered by intervention specialists rather than police officers.

“One of the things we have in this town is a mental health problem,” said Griffin. “We really need some non-uniform crisis intervention specialists – people who can step in and provide the social services and psychological care that some people need.”

A Analysis by the Brookings Institute says the US bailout plan could also allow cities to create or expand their own alternative police programs that focus on mental health, like the one in San Francisco Street Crisis Response Team, Seattle Bless you, Denvers STAR program (Support Team Assisted Response) and Portlands Street answer.

Policy Matters Ohio issued a July report on the public safety redesign in Cleveland, which included a list of existing programs to help people with mental health problems, substance abuse problems, or other traumatic events, including the emergency phone number and the mobile team of the nonprofit FrontLine Service; road work coordinated by the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless; Teams of crisis co-responders working with Cleveland police officers to respond to mental health calls; Training of crisis intervention teams for police officers; and intervention and trauma-informed training in recovery centers.

Kareem Henton, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Cleveland, said having an alternative to 911 police when callers seek help will save lives.

“That will save many people unnecessary trips to our criminal justice system or grappling with our criminal justice system, which further has a carcinogenic effect,” said Henton. “We believe we definitely need helpers with mental illness, but we do need helpers for someone who asks for money on the side of the road or at a motorway exit. The respondents can see what services they need, e.g. B. Assistance with the provision of accommodation. If there is a harassment complaint, e.g. B. Loud music, make code enforcement respond to give tickets to those people. Unnecessary interactions with law enforcement agencies create the potential for the next hashtag, and we absolutely want to avoid that. “

Antoine Tolbert is president of New Era Cleveland, a community security organization based in the Buckeye neighborhood. He said most calls to the police do not require the response of an armed officer and hopes the city will shift its public safety funds towards community-based alternatives instead.

“I think it’s time we tried something different,” said Tolbert. “The way things are now, it didn’t and didn’t work. Why keep putting money into a system that doesn’t benefit everyone?

“There needs to be more mental health funding and support to organizations that are already doing this work,” said Tolbert. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel”

If Cleveland spends the majority of its public safety funds on traditional police forces, Quarles of Black Spring told CLE that it would send a hurtful message to many in the community.

“It sends the message that regardless of the talks last year, regardless of protests around the world, they made for good pictures and good nightly news when people were all quarantined in their homes, but at the end of the day It was a lot of lip service that day, ”said Quarles. “And when the rubber hits the street, the money goes to the same places where it always was … It would send the message that it was all for free.”