Up for review
Christopher Viland, the superintendent of Internal Affairs for the Cleveland Division of Police (CDP), and Marcus Perez, the administrator for the Office of Professional Standards (OPS), met with the Cleveland Community Police Commission (CPC) to review their processes for investigating complaints against police.
Viland said that Internal Affairs investigates officer misconduct, both criminal and administrative. The department includes the Force Investigation Team, which handles cases where officers are accused of excessive use of force against a resident. The team includes members of Internal Affairs, the Homicide Unit, the Crime Scene and Records Unit, and the Office of Professional Standards. Complaints residents file directly are handled by OPS, he said, but that office will refer the complaints to Internal Affairs if there is a possibility of criminal misconduct.
Perez reiterated that OPS handles complaints from residents. These include biased policing, unprofessional conduct, lack of service, improper procedure, harassment, missing/damaged property, and excessive force. He said his department won’t handle complaints involving non-CDP employees.
The presentation shared during the meeting also excluded complaints involving unidentifiable officers, traffic/parking issues, and off-duty conduct.
Perez said that once OPS receives a complaint, he follows up with the resident who submitted it within three days and assigns it to an investigator. When the case is complete, the investigator provides a summary of the case to the resident who made the complaint and sends a recommendation to the Civilian Police Review Board.
The OPS investigator’s recommendation will state whether the evidence of the complainant’s allegations is sufficient, insufficient, founded, sustained, or unfounded. They may also make recommendations regarding policy or training changes as a result of the case, which community members have 15 days to provide feedback on.
Perez said the OPS does not make disciplinary recommendations. That is up to the Civilian Police Review Board.
Both Viland and Perez said that they do not handle complaints made against former CDP employees.
Commissioner Teri Wang asked how commissioners should request records from Internal Affairs and OPS. Viland asked that they go through the public records request process. Wang pushed back, citing a portion of the City Charter stating that commissioners do not have to go through a formal public records request to obtain information that is relevant to their work. She said that commissioners are authorized to access more than what is available to the public.
Viland told Wang that while an investigation is ongoing, records cannot be released. After a case is closed, he said, they should go through the formal records request process because portions of the documents have to be redacted since commissioners only have access to some of the confidential information included in the records.
Perez said that OPS has a backlog of about 200 cases to investigate. He said so far this year OPS has received 212 cases and sent 32 to the review board, and there are 20 cases left from 2022. The Civilian Police Review Board has a much smaller backlog and will be down to only 30 cases after its Sept. 12 meeting, according to Perez. The board has been meeting twice a month to catch up.
Perez added that September will be the last month this year that the board meets twice. They will decide in 2024 if two monthly meetings are needed again.