Mayor: Cleveland police accepting of departmental reforms

10 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

CLE Mayor Frank Jackson updates on consent decree progress.

CLEVELAND (AP) — Cleveland police officers are accepting the reality that an agreement with the U.S. A group of Cleveland retailers have asked Mayor Frank Jackson to veto a new law raising the minimum sales age of cigarettes and other smoking products from 18 to 21. (The Associated Press) CLEVELAND, Ohio — A coalition of local retail store owners, opposed to Cleveland’s new ban on cigarette sales to people under the age of 21, has asked Mayor Frank Jackson to veto the law, arguing that it will undercut their businesses and give suburban competitors an unfair advantage. In a letter delivered to Jackson’s office on Tuesday, Retail Buying Solutions President Anne Gross and Manager of Operations Tim Beech told the mayor that the legislation will be nearly impossible to enforce and will fail at achieving its intended goal of preventing youth from smoking. He highlighted some of the changes the department has already zeroed in on, including the force’s recruitment strategies, boosting current officers’ training, and strengthening the department’s relationships with community members.

A Justice Department report issued in December 2014 said an investigation found a pattern and practice of Cleveland officers using excessive force and violating people’s civil rights. Cleveland agreed to train officers to work more closely with the community and to establish new policies on use of force and dealing with the mentally ill. According to the city, the areas addressed in the report highlight what Cleveland accomplished since June 12, 2015 when Judge Oliver signed the Consent Decree between the city and the United States Department of Justice . The report detailed incidents including one in which handcuffed suspects were repeatedly shocked with stun guns and another in which a 137-shot barrage of police gunfire killed two unarmed black suspects after a high-speed chase. The report also notes items the city will be working on in the coming year, including hiring an inspector general to oversee the department and hiring more police officers.

The city entered the settlement with the Justice Department after years of complaints from citizens and several high-profile incidents where officers used force in trying to detain or subdue a suspect. The new restrictions apply only to vendors who sell tobacco and smoking products, and not to consumers, who still could legally give cigarettes to smokers between the ages of 18 and 21. This report will delineate the steps taken by CDP [Cleveland Division of Police] during the reporting period to comply with this Agreement; CDP’s Assessment of the Status of its progress; plans to correct any problems; and response to concerns raised in the Monitor’s previous semi-annual report.

The early stages of implementation mostly involve planning and preparation and establishing organizations such as the Community Policing Commission, which will make recommendations and review efforts by officers to engage the community. Gross, who has owned a Convenience store on Storer Avenue for 42 years, said that in drafting the ordinance, council did not consult with the business owners who would be affected by the law. She said the business community could have suggested alternatives to prevent youths from smoking, such as banning the advertisement of cigarettes outside stores or requiring stores to use technology that scans and verifies IDs at the point of sale.

The city plans to spend $13 million next year on costs related to implementing reform and as much as $9 million in the following years of what is supposed to be a five-year agreement. The mayor couldn’t say if the relationship between police and residents has improved or whether there’s been a reduction in complaints about police during the first six months the decree has been in effect. Gross and Beech also pointed out the difficulty in enforcing the ordinance – which will create unfair competition between stores owners who will follow the law and those who won’t.

They stressed that more devastating than losing the cigarettes sales would be losing the revenue from the other items that smokers buy while in the stores, such as sandwiches, snacks and groceries. But the ordinance was drafted to address a serious public health problem, Kelley said, and evidence suggests that the measure will be effective in limiting youths’ access to tobacco products. He pointed out that Councilman Joe Cimperman, who sponsored the legislation, held about 17 hours worth of hearings on the topic, during which store owners were invited to testify. And he cited expert testimony that the 18- to 21-year-old age group represents only a fraction of cigarette sales but is the primary pipeline to younger teens.

Kelley said the fact that council postponed a vote on another piece of legislation — banning the sale of flavored smoking products everywhere but in tobacco retail stores – demonstrates council’s willingness to listen to business owners’ concerns. He said Monday that the council is still seeking to clarify aspects of that ordinance, such as what constitutes a “flavor” and whether menthol cigarettes fall under that category. “I’m not going to disagree that enforcement is a problem,” he said. “And to the extend that you have the law-abiding business owner on one block, and then you have the one that will ignore the law – that does hurt the honest business.

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