Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams said Wednesday that among the challenges he faces in reforming his department in concert with a federal consent decree is training his officers to view themselves as guardians of the community, rather than warriors, reports Cleveland.com.
"This has been embedded in law enforcement for my entire career – so more than 25 years," Williams said during a City Hall news conference. "Our officers have been trained to survive, to be prepared, to go out in our neighborhoods as if they are in the military. We want our officers to be safe and vigilant and able to protect our community and themselves. But we have changed that philosophy from being a warrior ... to being a guardian."
Williams said officers' training focuses on community engagement, professionalism and respect for the people they serve. And all front line officers have completed a four-hour online training program explaining the tenets and practice of community policing – a first step in getting officers to engage more with citizens and restore public trust.
Officers also will undergo extensive training in cultural sensitivity, crisis intervention and interacting with youth, Williams said.
Mayor Frank Jackson called the news conference Wednesday morning to update members of the media on the city's progress in implementing the consent decree, which city and U.S. Department of Justice officials announced last month to address use of excessive force and other deficiencies in the police department.
Jackson said that after Chief U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. approves the agreement, the city and Justice Department have 30 days to choose a monitor to oversee the reforms.
Jackson and Williams highlighted new computer programs that will track citizens' complaints and flag troubling behavior of officers who could benefit from intervention.