In December the City of Cleveland announced several changes of command in its police department. Signal Cleveland is working to sit down with all the commanders to better understand their plans for their districts.
Jarod Schlacht was promoted to First District commander of the Cleveland Division of Police in December.
The First District includes the West Park, Edgewater, Cudell and Bellaire-Puritas neighborhoods.
Schlacht started his policing career in 2007. He spent four years as a patrol officer in the Sixth District before it became the Fifth District.
Schlacht served five years in the detective bureau before being promoted to sergeant. He moved his way up to the chief’s office – where he assisted the deputy chief – and then became a lieutenant. After a year as the officer in charge in the internal affairs unit, he was named the First District’s commander.
Schlacht said he’s learned to be humble and empathetic in his 16 years in the police department.
“It’s easy just to arrest somebody and take them to jail. Problem’s temporarily solved,” Schlacht said. “But what can we do as pillars in the community to help the long-term solution to this problem?”
Signal Cleveland sat with Schlacht to learn about his priorities.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What are your priorities as leader of the First District?
My priorities are pretty simple, and pretty straightforward. I want to strengthen our ties to the community. I want to reduce the violent crime that we’re seeing in the First District. Violent crime is on the decrease.
And I feel that our direct relationships getting strengthened with this community are a reflection of that. Our officers right now in the First District are getting out of their cars. They’re engaging the community on a personal level. They’re being visible in the neighborhoods, and we’re seeing that reflected in the statistics.
Without proper relationships with a community, it’s difficult to police the individuals we serve.
How can you and your team build community trust?
By going out and making those personal face-to-face contacts. Our officers are getting out there, and they’re engaging the community.
There’s being more active on social media and creating those events in which we’re gonna talk one on one. We just had a Coffee with the Cops and it was a huge success. And it’s simply having our officers come out in more of a non-traditional law enforcement role and the community coming and meeting us, and us sitting down and just having open conversations of what problems they’re seeing and what we can do to assist them.
We shouldn’t wait until we’re called to someone’s house for a problem to discuss the issues in our community. We need to have these forums where our officers can meet with the public, get to know who they are, and get to know the problems that are occurring.
Because if we have a zone car sit on the street, nobody’s going to do anything when they see the cop car. But when we leave, there are problems occurring – speeders, loud music, different lifestyle problems in the city of Cleveland that we need to know about so we can get out there and engage and assist in solving those problems.
You mention speeding. That was something a lot of people brought up at this month’s First District community meeting. Is that one of the bigger issues around here?
There are concerns with it. That seems to be one of the hot topics when we get together in those community forums and I get the most emails about. Probably because it’s one of the most easily identifiable things going on, especially in school zones [and] down side streets.
People know certain streets cut through to the next main road, and instead of going to the light where all the other traffic is, they may go down that through street. It is an issue, and we do have our traffic units out there monitoring it. And we have the city-wide traffic unit out, and we highlight the areas that we need them at.
Our officers are out there enforcing, and our citations are up a little over 30% in the district for us enforcing the different traffic violations that we are seeing.
How do you feel about the many ways in which the community and the city are working to hold police accountable?
Our officers, in my opinion, are being held accountable. They’re being held to a standard. One thing I’ve been preaching out in the First District is we are going to be the new standard for the division. We will set the example.
We cannot hold others accountable if we do not hold ourselves accountable first. And with the Civilian [Police] Review Board, with disciplinary hearings, with the Office of Professional Standards, our officers are being held accountable.
And if they do make a mistake, they’re being held to the standard which we expect out of them. Our officers, for the most part, have no problem with the accountability being held to them. We know what the rules are, and we’re staying within those boundaries.
What are your thoughts on co-response and care-response models?
It’s crucial. We have individuals that are in crisis, they’re in mental crisis, behavioral crisis. And for us to have that co-responder program I think is amazing. To have an officer go out there along with the social worker, so you are hitting this simultaneously with two solutions to a problem.
The social worker has access and knowledge to things that, as police officers, we don’t have. And to be able to pair us up is innovative. I’m seeing the statistics of how it’s working. It’s another resource for our officers to reach out to help with the long-term solution to this problem.
It’s very easy for us to take an individual to the hospital and say, hey, they need psychiatric care. But if this person’s having troubles getting their medication, they’re having problems with housing, if they’re having any other issues, taking them to the hospital doesn’t solve those problems.
But getting them direct contact with a social worker who has the knowledge and the access to those resources provides a long-term solution for the individual. And I think it’s critical for the success of our citizens.