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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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