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Cleveland Police Union Calls for Chief To Resign

February 06, 2013  | 

Jeffery Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, addresses the media. Screenshot via WKYC.
Jeffery Follmer, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association, addresses the media. Screenshot via WKYC.

The Cleveland patrolman's union called for the resignation of Chief Mark McGrath over the administration's response to a November pursuit shooting, union leaders said at a Wednesday press conference.

The Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association called the press conference to answer Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine's indictment of the agency's response to the Nov. 29 chase that led to the deaths of two unarmed suspects in a hail of circular police gunfire.

"Right now, morale is at an all-time low," said Jeffery Follmer, the association's president. "Our members no longer have the confidence in the chief's ability to lead. We're requesting that he resign."

DeWine released the findings Tuesday from a panel's investigation of the deadly pursuit that faulted the agency's communication system and criticized officers for joining the pursuit without first obtaining permission from a supervisor. Commanders overseeing the pursuit were also singled out.

More than 60 police vehicles from several agencies participated in the 20-minute pursuit that ended at Heritage Middle School in East Cleveland. Seven Cleveland officers from 13 patrol cars cornered suspects Malissa Williams, 30, and Timothy Russell, 43. Officers fired 137 rounds at Williams and Russell, who were killed.

The pursuit began when Russell fled from a traffic stop.

"That pursuit that took place and the deadly force that followed could have been avoided if the suspects had just stopped," Follmer said Wednesday. "Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams chose not only to endanger their own lives but that of the public."

Officers interviewed as part of DeWine's probe said they feared for their lives and believed one or both of the suspects were armed. Officers cornered the suspects in a parking lot and began firing when Russell nearly struck an officer and rammed a patrol car with 1979 Chevrolet Malibu SS.

Police rounds also struck patrol cars responding to the scene, according to DeWine's report.

One question the report didn't answer was whether Russell was armed. In radio dispatch traffic, several officers reported seeing him with a gun or hearing what they thought were gunshots. However, no weapon was recovered from the Malibu. Russell and Williams tested positive for gunshot residue on their hands; however, the report concluded those results were inconclusive.

Follmer said the agency's antiquated radio system kept officers from getting information during the pursuit. He also said agency training and equipment is lacking. Cleveland officers aren't trained to use the PIT maneuver, and the department only has 13 spike strips, many of which are broken.

More than 1,600 sworn Cleveland police personnel now patrol a jurisdiction of 478,000 residents.


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Comments (16)

Displaying 1 - 16 of 16

John @ 2/6/2013 6:15 PM

Speaking of someone who wasn't there! Better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you are stupid, than to open your mouth and erase all doubt. If you weren't there or weren't involved in the investigation, you have nothing to say.

JB @ 2/6/2013 6:32 PM

Russell and Williams tested positive for gunshot residue on their hands; however, the report concluded those results were inconclusive.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN????? They fired weapons and probably threw them out the window near the end of the chase. They used deadly force by driving a 2 ton piece of metal at high speeds to elude Police. The Police are not at fault. They were doing there job. people need to read how many Police are killed in the line of duty (average 1 per every 53 hours). Too many monday morning quarterbacks.

William322 @ 2/6/2013 6:45 PM

Well said John.

westcoastleo @ 2/6/2013 7:43 PM

"Officers cornered the suspects in a parking lot and began firing when Russell nearly struck an officer and rammed a patrol car with 1979 Chevrolet Malibu SS."


Now,,,I aint saying that 60 cars in a chase is too much but, a supervisor should have coordinated the chase on the air from the time it started to the time it ended. A good supervisor and officers who are using their heads could have done this better with fewer cars. But, I was not there and I wont second guess these people.

Double T @ 2/6/2013 8:31 PM

"More than 60 vehicles from several agencies...."

I can only assume these agencies all have pursuit policies, and each slightly different from the other. However, it has been my experience that these policies include language regarding the number of cars in the pursuit and how to handle assisting other agencies. So that many cars from different agencies indicate, on the face, that there may in fact be a communications issue. It will be interesting to see the outcome of this.

Ron Berry @ 2/6/2013 9:08 PM

My first question would be, if 137 roounds were fired, what caliber were they using ? Second question, there is ni mention of drugs, paraphenalia, or residue, or alcohol. Okay, so now Everyone who does not know that it is your civic duty to SAFELY pull over for an emergency vehicle. It appears they had something to hide or would not have kept going. When You look in the mirror, and all You see are flashing lights, and none of them are attempting to get around You, They are after You. I realize Cleveland is probably in the same finincial crunch as the rest of Our big cities, but you still cannot consciously send Your Officers out without effective comms.

Corporal T.E./N.S.M. @ 2/6/2013 9:11 PM

Fled from a traffic stop. Not a traffic suggestion, not from a traffic request, not from a traffic option.

And we care about these skells, WHY?!

Doc @ 2/6/2013 9:37 PM

I know, they must have been shooting skeet with Obama!
They got rid of the guns during the chase, after they ran out of ammo, it's not like either of them would qualify for "citizen of the year", and maybe if they were still in jail, they would be alive.
I can't fault any of the officers, I wasn't there, but if anyone is at fault besides the criminals, then it would be the administration.

PD @ 2/6/2013 10:52 PM

60 vehicles? Who was the Watch Commander? Wow.

Bud Chapman @ 2/7/2013 9:24 AM

As most of the people that read my comments know I have always been a rebel and will continue to be so. So here is another contraversial(sp) statement. Just who the hell does this union think it is to call for the resignation of any police chief or police officer period. These guys or gals sit there and arbitrarily issue a statement like that. Why don't they just run the union and keep their damn mouths shut, I myself get damn sick and tired of hearing about civilians trying to run the police departments, examples (Unions, City and Town Councils, etc.). If you people in these entities read this comment, you need to keep running the administrative sections of the city and let the police departments run their businesses, they seem to know more about running the police departments than you do!

Ima Leprechaun @ 2/7/2013 9:32 PM

Well being a rebel too I will call for the Chief to resign then if that's all you need "Bud".

Ima Leprechaun @ 2/7/2013 9:37 PM

In the south, if officers only fired 137 rounds they would get written up for not trying hard enough. In the south over 1000 rounds fired is more normal and thats only for fleeing from an equipment violation. We are in the same country but there is so much difference from north to south. They take Law Enforcement seriously in the south.

Nutz149 @ 2/8/2013 9:38 AM

Our they just can't hit anything in the south.
Sorry...cop humor. :-)

Dan B @ 2/8/2013 11:43 AM

137 shots? REALLY?!?

Dean TX @ 2/20/2013 9:46 PM

I agree with Bud.

Not saying they didn't deserve it, but 137 shots fired sounds like a total cluster. Don't go fingerpointing at the chief. Lucky no one caught in cross fire.

Longarm9 @ 7/19/2013 5:25 AM

Just going to point this out - 60+ units involved in the chase, even if we assume that all those units are single offier units, (which they may not be) that's only 2.28 rounds on average per officer if all of them were shooting. Now, of course that's not very likely, but given the circular pattern of the shots, we know for sure that multiple officers were firing, so even if we very conservatively estimated the number of shooters at 15, that's only 9.13 rounds per shooter on average. I don't know about you, but my agency trains us to shoot until the threat is gone. If the car or the perps kept moving, the threat is still there. It sure sounds like the officers had every reason to believe the perps had guns, and they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt they had a 2000lb weapon in the form of the vehicle they were at that moment using to commit deadly assault on the police.

Totally justified shooting. The Chief should resign for being a coward and caving to uninformed public opinion instead of backing his officers for doing the right thing.

And anyone who doesn't think a motor vehicle is a deadly weapon can go stand in the middle of the freeway until they get hit and see how they feel afterwards.

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