Community activist Kathy Wray Coleman, who leads the Imperial Women Coalition, raises her hand and chants along with some 45 other activists during a 2009 rally she led outside the home of Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. The protest was in response to what activists said was police negligence and apathy relative to the murders of 11 Black women on Imperial Avenue on the city's east side. The remains of the women were uncovered beginning in October 2009 and since convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell sits on death row following convictions on 82 of 83 counts, including multiple counts of rape and murder. Activists were also upset because at the time the law enforcement leadership team of the Cleveland Police Department, including the chief of police, law director, safety director, chief prosecutor and EMS commissioner, had no Blacks. Jackson appointed Calvin Williams in January of last year as the new police chief. Williams is Black.
Photo by John Kuntz, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Ohio's largest newspaper. CLICK THIS LINK HERE TO READ THE CLEVELAND PLAIN DEALER NEWSPAPER AT CLEVELAND.COM
CLEVELAND, Ohio-High profile police killings of Black people, from the shooting death last year by Cleveland police of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, to the killing last year of Tanisha Anderson while in police custody, and the November 2012 slaying by police slinging 137 bullets of unarmed Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell, will air tonight, January 25, at 7 pm Eastern Standard time on CBS in a segment on 60 minutes. (Editor's note: Rice was gunned down for sporting a toy gun at a public park on the city's west side).
CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker reports from Cleveland where he accompanies the city's law enforcement officers on routine patrol and discusses the controversial policing issues that have caused racial unrest in the largely Black major metropolitan city.
The city is steeped in poverty. Fifty- four percent of Cleveland kids live below the poverty line, U.S. Census reports show, the second highest rate of any big city nationally. And Black Clevelanders are disproportionately poor compared to their White counterparts.
Whitaker interviews Cleveland Police Chief Calvin Williams, among others, Williams admitting to Whitaker that there are some bad cops in Cleveland, and also saying that people in general like and respect Cleveland police, the latter of which is under question as tensions between police and the Black community continue to escalate.
The television segment comes on the heels of heated national and local protests against questionable police killings of Black men and boys, and a scathing report issued last month by the U.S. Department Justice that found systemic problems in the largely White Cleveland Police Department
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder
The DOJ's findings on gross impropriety by Cleveland police, which were announced by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and came following a 20-month investigation, are damning, from illegal deadly force killings, to vicious pistil whippings of adults and children, and "cruel and unusual punishment against the mentally ill."
A consent decree between the city and the federal government, and designed to address the DOJ findings, is in the workings.
Williams of Cleveland, who is Black and homegrown, was appointed by Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson in February of last year to replace former police chief Michael McGrath, who was promoted to replace ousted safety director Martin Flask, who got another high paying position, compliments of the mayor.
Williams had been a deputy police chief under McGrath and is the city's third Black police chief. He is paid $110,562 annually.
McGrath, who retired and was hired back by the city, got a raise of $10,000 to bring his annual salary to $127,720.
"We definitely want this city to be the best city in the United States," Williams, a 29-year veteran, told reporters after his appointment to police chief last year.
Flask, also a retiree that rejoined the Jackson administration, is now a special assistant to the mayor and earns $121,000 annually.
Both Flask and McGrath are White and are under fire as community activists, some Cleveland City Council members, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, which is Ohio's largest newspaper, and the Call and Post, a Black Cleveland weekly, want the mayor to fire them.
Community activists, led by the Imperial Women Coalition, picketed the mayor's home on two occasions, the first time in December 2009 after the remains of 11 Black women were uncovered on Imperial Avenue on the city's largely Black east side at the since demolished home of convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell. The serial killer sits on death row while he appeals his convictions on 82 of 83 counts, including multiple counts of rape and murder.
Activists say that the police negligence of Sowell's release from custody in 2008 following a rape complaint where he thereafter murdered the last six of his 11 murder victims is inexcusable, and that police ignored missing persons reports relative to the tragedy.
The second protest came in 2010 because the activists women said nothing has really been done regarding the unprecedented murders on Imperial Avenue, and that rape and murder of women in Cleveland in general are at epidemic proportions.
Activists had complained during the first picket at the mayor's east side home in 2009 of a lack of diversity among his top brass, and at the time Jackson had no Blacks appointees as safety director, chief of police, chief prosecutor, law director or EMS commissioner in a majority Black city.
The promotion of Williams as a Black changes that scenario. But whether the quasi-diversified administrative changes will satisfy activists or enhance community relations with police and the Black community remains to be seen.