#CLEDocsAnswers: How does public comment work at Civilian Police Review Board meetings, and how long do cases take?

Documenter McKenzie Merriman attended the April 13 Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB) meeting. She noticed that David Lima, of Showing Up for Racial Justice, made comments about the Cleveland Police vehicle pursuit policy and the investigative process concerning the 2019 pursuit that killed 13-year-old Tamia Chappman. McKenzie wondered how public comment works at CPRB meetings. For this edition of #CLEDocsAnswers, we reached out to Roger Smith, director of Cleveland’s Office of Professional Standards (OPS).

OPS houses a team of investigators who look into civil complaints that people make against Cleveland police officers. OPS investigators report their findings to the CPRB in a public hearing. Its members then vote on whether to recommend that Chief of Police Calvin Williams discipline the involved officers. Here’s what Smith told us about public comment at those meetings:

  • Anyone who wants to make a public comment can call OPS at 216-664-2944 and request to do so
  • People can also email the office at clepolicecomplaints@city.cleveland.oh.us
  • People can speak for up to three minutes

McKenzie also wanted to know, “What is the typical timeline between a complaint being filed and the OPS investigation reaching the CPRB?” Here’s what we learned:

Smith said factors that can impact the investigation’s timeline include:

  • Can the complainant be reached?
  • Is the officer available for an interview?
  • How quickly can investigators get evidence?

If a complainant doesn’t initially provide enough information for investigators to act on, OPS investigators seek a follow-up interview, according to Smith. Some complainants lose interest after filing, which affects the timeline.

Officers can suffer work injuries or might be on military leave, making it hard to schedule interviews. If the complaint is tied to a criminal incident, that can limit officers’ availability, too, according to Smith.

People can find options for filing a complaint with OPS here. One way to file a complaint is to submit this online form.

In the April 13 CPRB meeting, OPS Investigator David Hammons presented his findings regarding a complaint against officers involved in the vehicle pursuit that killed 13-year-old Tamia Chappman. McKenzie’s notes have the details, including a recap of Lima’s comments. You can read those here.

Give us a follow on Twitter for more #CLEDocsAnswers. In the meantime, you can find notes and live-tweet threads on city meetings on the Cleveland Documenters website.