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Cleveland Settles With DOJ After Dozens Of Protesters Arrested

The city of Cleveland has agreed to make some changes to their justice system after a weekend of widespread protests and arrests stemming from a verdict of not guilty for a white officer accused of killing two unarmed black people in 2012.

Cleveland has agreed to settle with the Department of Justice’s demands for reform and undergo federal monitoring of those reforms, reports the New York Times. Details about the settlement could be released as early as Tuesday.

The settlement pertains to allegations of unconstitutional policing and excessive use of force, accusations that gained public attention after a massive police chase involving 62 vehicles ended with police peppering a vehicle with 137 bullets.

When the fleeing car backfired, police say the sound caused them to open fire on the vehicle, leaving Timothy Russell, 43, and Malissa Williams, 30, dead.

A Judge declared Officer Michael Brelo, the only officer accused of continuing to fire after there was no possibility of a threat, not guilty of manslaughter. Brelo was charged because he jumped on the hood of the car and fired 15 shots into the vehicle after the chase was over.

“I will not sacrifice him to a public frustrated by historical mistreatment at the hands of other officers,” Judge John P. O’Donnell of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court said.

The judge said it was impossible to tell if Brelo’s bullets had been the ones to kill the couple.

The announcement sparked widespread protests across the city of Cleveland, quickly drawing comparisons to Ferguson and Baltimore, two cities inundated with protests after similar announcements.

Police said 71 protesters were arrested Saturday and about 55 were arrested Sunday, dozens of whom were charged with disorderly conduct and failure to disperse.

“It’s a tragedy because no one is being held accountable,” Michelle Russell, Timothy Russell’s sister, told ABC Saturday.

The settlement is similar to what happened in Ferguson, where the officer involved was not found guilty but the DOJ forced systematic reforms in the affected department.

The Justice Department has reported on Cleveland’s police problems as far back as 2004. The DOJ released a scathing report on Cleveland’s police practices in December. The report criticized nearly every aspect of Cleveland’s police force, alleging problems with excessive use of force, treatment of mentally ill people, poor strategic tactics, and more.

That report will likely serve as an outline for reforms in the settlement.

“The current pattern or practice of constitutional violations is even more troubling because we identified many of these structural deficiencies more than ten years ago during our previous investigation of CDP’s use of force,” the 2014 report said.

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