The same Cleveland police department that the federal government found routinely uses excessive force and is poorly trained also arrests black residents far more often than whites, according to an analysis of FBI statistics sent to International Business Times. In 2012, the latest year federal data is available, blacks were arrested 2.5 times more than whites. That was also the same year Cleveland police officers fatally shot two unarmed black people 157 times, sparking the Justice Department probe.
Cleveland is 53 percent black and 37 percent white, according to 2010 Census data. About 10,000 white Cleveland residents were arrested in 2012, or about 6.5 percent the city's 150,000 white residents. Almost 34,000 blacks were arrested, or about 15.9 percent of the roughly 212,000 African-Americans that call Cleveland home.
In all, African-Americans make up 68 percent of Cleveland arrests, but represent only 53 percent of its population. That arrest rate rose to 74 percent in 2013, according to an IBTimes analysis of data from the Ohio Department of Public Safety.
The racial disparity was most apparent with drug crimes. Blacks and whites use drugs at about the same rates, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration. But African-Americans in Cleveland are punished at a greater rate than whites -- almost about 2.7 times more, according to the FBI data. There were 1,077 whites arrested for drug or narcotics offenses in Cleveland in 2012, or about 0.7 percent of the white population. Almost 4,000 blacks were arrested for the same crimes, or 1.87 percent of the black population.
The perceived unfairness in Cleveland's justice system and police tactics, particularly toward blacks, recently came under scrutiny after 12-year-old Tamir Rice was fatally shot late last month by a white police officer who believed the toy gun the black child was holding was real. The shooting unfolded against the backdrop of a grand jury’s decision last week not to indict a white police officer in the death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Tamir's death also occurred nearly two weeks before a grand jury in Staten Island, New York, decided not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of a black man, Eric Garner, last summer.
The racial tensions in Cleveland precede Tamir's fatal police shooting. In 2012, black residents Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams were killed in a hail of 157 bullets when officers mistook the sound of a car backfiring for gunshots. A civil lawsuit filed by the victims’ families was settled for $3 million just days before Tamir was shot.
The 2012 incident spurred the Justice Department probe that examined 600 cases where officers used force between 2010 and 2013. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the investigation found the Cleveland police had a pattern of using excessive force and also inadequately trained officers. An independent monitor will now oversee that Cleveland trains its police force properly as a result of the DOJ findings.
“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,” Holder said in a statement. “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. There are real, practical and concrete measures that can be taken to ensure not only that police services are delivered in a constitutional manner but that promote public safety, officer safety, confidence and collaboration, transparency and legitimacy.”