Cleveland City Hall

MEETING PREVIEW: City of Cleveland to Address Federal Court Today Regarding Data Access Concerns Initiated by State and Federal Authorities

Thursday, Mar 07, 2024

The City Approached the Monitoring Team and Department of Justice After Receiving Concerning Guidance from State and Federal Officials that Adversely Affects City’s Compliance with Consent Decree

Thursday, March 7, 2024 — Cleveland —Today, Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. will hold a status conference in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio to hear from City of Cleveland officials regarding concerns – that were presented by state and federal authorities in previous conversations – about providing the Monitoring Team (MT) and Department of Justice (DOJ) with unrestricted access to all City criminal records.  Officials from the City’s Law Department, Police Accountability Team, Department of Public Safety, and Division of Police will discuss concerns and present a resolution to the matter.

The City unequivocally believes that both the DOJ and MT should have unrestricted access to all City criminal records in its duties of overseeing and ensuring compliance with the consent decree, which they have had since it went into effect in 2015.  The City paused this access only after receiving contradictory information from federal and state authorities that put residents, taxpayers, and City employees all at risk – which is why the City took it upon themselves to resolve the issue by requesting a status conference.


Following the passage of amended Charter Section 115, the City moved quickly to implement the new amendment.  While establishing greater independence for the City’s oversight entities (i.e. the Office of Professional Standards/OPS, Civilian Police Review Board/CPRB, and Community Police Commission/CPC), this also brought new challenges to the City – as the amendment did not consider how these changes would actually function in practicality.  It required extensive work from City officials researching best practices and poring over legal implications to implement the new amendment efficiently while also ensuring accordance with other state and federal laws and regulations.

While proactively addressing these new structural changes, the City raised the issue of data access last year to both state and federal agencies who are tasked with providing guidance, advice, and recommendations related to the “creation, viewing, modification, transmission, dissemination, storage, and destruction” of criminal justice information.  In Spring 2023, state officials had indicated that the City’s oversight entities did not fall under the definition of “the administration of criminal justice” and, last month, affirmed their position.  Ohio Revised Code Section 2913.04 prohibits access without the authorization of state officials. The City is required to follow the law.

In August 2023, the City met with state officials to advocate for oversight entities to have unrestricted access to the City’s criminal records, which also contains various types of state and federal criminal data.  The City was informed that federal authorities told state officials that the City’s oversight entities (i.e. OPS, CPRB, & CPC) did not fall under the definition of “the administration of criminal justice” and recommended data access should be provided to these entities either via redacted copies or by granting view-only status in the presence of someone who has the appropriate certifications (i.e. an “escort option”).

At that time, the City was also informed by state officials that federal authorities explicitly said this also applied to the DOJ, and other civilian reviewers such as members of the MT.  As such, giving these entities unrestricted access could have severe consequences for the City – up to and including employees being charged with potential felony crimes and/or loss of access to these same crucial law enforcement systems for the Division of Police.

After receiving that guidance, the City informed the DOJ and MT and further discussions ensued.  During these conversations, the City provided documentation showing the guidance that federal authorities provided to state officials and asked the DOJ and MT to provide any evidence that would contradict it.

The City became increasingly concerned about possible sanctions and, out of an abundance of caution, temporarily suspended the MT and DOJ’s unrestricted access to these systems on December 29.  City officials proposed that the City, DOJ, and MT jointly approach the federal judge to issue a clarifying order on the issue.  Unfortunately, that proposal was ultimately rejected by both the MT and DOJ.

The City remains dedicated in its obligations under the consent decree and is hopeful this latest issue will be resolved today.  The City looks forward to continuing its work with the DOJ and MT and preparing for official assessment in the areas of Crisis Intervention, Use of Force, and Search and Seizure.  Efforts are highly focused on continuing to build on the extraordinary progress made last October when compliance was increased in 35 consent decree benchmarks – a 400% net increase – and achieving the shared vision of coming into full compliance as quickly as possible.