CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association President Jeffery Follmer said today police officers have lost confidence in Chief Michael McGrath because of scrutiny regarding November’s high speed chase and shooting and called for the chief’s resignation.
“The chief of police has been a disappointment since the beginning of this incident,” Follmer said during a news conference today. “Right now morale is at an all-time low. Our members no longer have the confidence in our chief’s ability to lead. We’re requesting for him to resign.”
Follmer also criticized the city’s administration and its investigation into the Nov. 29 incident, saying he was “disappointed by the premature judgment of the panel to appease the public without knowing the facts.” Follmer said officers involved in the incident have been told they will be suspended, demoted or will lose their jobs.
“We have officers right now second-guessing because they don’t believe they’re being supported by this administration,” he said.
Attorney General Mike DeWine said Tuesday the chase revealed a “systemic failure” of the Cleveland police department.
“Command failed, communications failed, the system failed,” DeWine said at a news conference in which he released results of a state investigation of the chase and shooting. “The system itself failed these officers.”
DeWine said that though officers misinterpreted facts and failed to follow rules, the command has to be so strong and training so ingrained to prevent an officer’s individual judgement from spiraling out of control.
“The system has to take over and put the brakes on,” he said.
DeWine said that nearly 60 vehicles involved in the chase failed to follow city policy and joined the high-speed pursuit without asking a supervisor’s permission.
The supervisor, DeWine said, told investigators he thought only three of cars were involved in the chase because cruisers were communicating on different radio channels.
McGrath responded to DeWine’s assertions at a later City Hall news conference saying there was no “systemic” failure because the department has solid policies and procedures in place.
McGrath said the question for the city is whether officers followed those policies and procedures. If they didn’t “some will be held accountable,” McGrath promised.
DeWine said he saw McGrath’s comments later Tuesday and was shocked and troubled by them.
“This type of attitude, this head in the sand, refusal to look at the facts, could mean we could have this problem again, and next time we may have an innocent bystander who dies, or police officers who are killed, which could very well have happened this time,” DeWine said. “People in leadership need to take responsibility. The police department system failed these officers and they failed the general public. You can’t look at that report and come up with any other conclusion.”
“It’s not one or two officers who made a mistake, DeWine said, but dozens of officers, which “means you have a systemic problem.”
“It’s leadership,” DeWine said. “We have a culture problem in the department. The leadership failed, and will continue (to fail) if they continue to put their head in the sand.”
DeWine did not make any determination of whether the officers’ actions were legal or justified.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty will review the report, prepared by investigators from the state Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s office and East Cleveland police.
He said a grand jury will decide whether criminal charges are warranted.
Mayor Frank Jackson said McGrath — whom he said he has full confidence in — will use the report as part of their own investigation into the actions of officers. He said there is no timeline for finishing that task.
Just days after the shooting, Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association President Jeffery Follmer criticized McGrath for commenting on the situation and defended the actions of the officers involved.
“I don’t understand where the bad guys aren’t still bad, and now it’s the police officers,” Follmer said during a news conference on Dec. 1.
“The officers involved are experienced and professional police officers,” Follmer said. “For anyone who was not there to judge them without knowing all the facts, or to blame anyone else but the two occupants of that car for their own death, is ignorant and self serving.
“Our officers did a great job.”