The Office of Professional Standards closed 60 more investigations last year than in 2021 despite dealing with high turnover and a lack of steady leadership.
The office’s data analyst resigned in August and four investigators resigned or retired last year, leaving the office with five of nine investigators at the end of 2022.
After hiring an investigator in January, the office currently has six investigator positions filled. The office is requesting an increase in funding in its 2023 budget for an additional investigator position.
Jonathan Cudnik, interim administrator of the office, highlighted the challenges the office has faced.
He commended investigators and support staff for continuing their work while navigating a “turbulent period of leadership.”
“It is truly remarkable to me that all who work at OPS have handled this unusual situation with grace and perseverance,” Cudnik told City Council members during budget hearings.
As the office engages more with community members and shares how residents can file complaints, they expect to see complaints increase, he said.
There are plans to hire a general manager of administrator services, a position that’s been open for three years, Cudnik said. The maximum salary listed in the budget proposal for that position is more than $110,000.
Cudnik also said they are interviewing candidates for the data analyst position.
The Office of Professional Standards investigates complaints against police officers or police department employees. They present their findings to the Civilian Police Review Board who then makes a recommendation on whether any discipline is necessary.
That recommendation then goes to the Cleveland Department of Public Safety and Division of Police for review and a decision on discipline.
Council Member Brian Kazy asked what the office’s backlog looked like.
Eric Richardson, interim senior investigator, said they don’t have a way to define when cases are in a “backlog” but if a case is a year old they start dedicating extra resources to the investigation to complete it.
Cudnik said they have 174 open cases. Richardson said six of those are more than a year old.
After voters passed Issue 24 in 2021, the Office of Professional Standards became independent from the Division of Police. It now reports to the Civilian Police Review Board working independently from the Department of Public Safety.
Issue 24 created a more independent Community Police Commission which has a final say on police discipline decisions. That means the Community Police Commission can review a recommendation from the Civilian Police Review Board or reverse a decision from the police chief and the director of Public Safety.
Issue 24 also added a requirement that the Civilian Police Review Board and the Office of Professional Standards get a budget of at least 1% of the police budget – almost $2.2 million this year. The budget proposals for the two entities is $1,000 above the minimum funding requirement.