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Team to scrutinize Cleveland police actions during protests

June 19, 2020 GMT

CLEVELAND (AP) — The team monitoring Cleveland police reforms as part of a court-ordered consent decree will review the actions of officers and supervisors during recent protests over racial injustice following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Arlington, Virginia-based monitor Hassan Aden filed documents Thursday in U.S. District Court in Cleveland outlining the scope of the review and requesting information from the city that documents planning for the protests, officer use of force and mass arrest policies.

The review comes “amid reports alleging excessive/unnecessary force, lack of preparation, command and control, appropriate personal protection equipment for officers as well as other concerns” about the response by police, the court filing said.

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Hassan did not respond to messages seeking comment on Friday. Cleveland did not provide a comment or any officials to respond.

The consent decree was put in place in June 2015 after an investigation and scathing report from the U.S. Department of Justice that found a “pattern and practice of officers using excessive force and violating people’s civil rights.” It required numerous policy changes, including how and when force is used and how officers are trained and equipped.

Use-of-force incidents and officer injuries have fallen since new policies were implemented.

Yet there have been media reports about questionable behavior by Cleveland officers during a May 30 Black Lives Matter protest that resulted in extensive damage to downtown businesses. The damage came after law enforcement officers fired tear gas and non-lethal munitions at protesters outside the Cuyahoga County Justice Center.

An Ohio man can be seen in a cellphone video being shot in the face with a bean bag as he walked away from the Justice Center during a confrontation between officers and protesters. John Sanders, 24, of Sandusky, told cleveland.com that his left eye had to be removed after unsuccessful surgery to repair the damage.

“I never would have expected to be protesting something and have the very thing I was protesting happen to me,” Sanders said.

It is not clear who injured Sanders. Officers from Cleveland and the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority, along with Cuyahoga County sheriff’s deputies, were standing guard in front of the Justice Center that day.

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An RTA spokeswoman told cleveland.com that none of the agency’s officers were armed with bean bag guns. A Cuyahoga County spokesman said he did not know whether deputies were carrying such guns.

A Cleveland police spokeswoman told cleveland.com she did not receive a response from the department’s internal affairs after she asked if it was investigating Sanders’ injury. The spokeswoman, Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia, did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Sanders has retained an attorney but has not filed a lawsuit.

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