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What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

July 22, 2021

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

July 22, 2021

Public services are the foundation of our daily lives, ensuring we have clean water to drink, our garbage is picked up, our streets are well-lit, and many other unnoticed but essential functions. Municipal operating budgets pool our tax dollars to fund public services, including policing. With increased public outcry following police killings of Black men and women, activists are scrutinizing public safety spending at higher levels than ever before. This report is a reference tool to better understand public spending on policing. It brings together information on the budget of the city of Cleveland, the Department of Public Safety, and the Cleveland Division of Police.


Cleveland’s $1.8 billion operating budget in 2021 includes Hopkins Airport, the water utility, Cleveland Public Power, and other enterprises that support themselves with fees and charges. In this paper, we examine a sub-set of the operating budget: the General Revenue Fund (GRF), which supports public services with taxpayer dollars.

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

  • The city’s 2021 GRF is $665 million. Of that, $371.5 million (56%) supports public safety, including police, fire, emergency services, animal control and other services. The Cleveland Division of Police makes up the biggest share of the Public Safety Department’s budget, at $218.2 million. It is the largest single service the city provides through the GRF budget, using 33% of general taxpayer revenues.

  • The 28-county northeast Ohio region accounts for over a third of the state economy. It is anchored by one of the nation’s poorest cities, Cleveland. The population of the city fell by 97,000 — 20.3% - over two decades. The police budget shrank as well — by 15.4%, adjusted for inflation, but has grown more rapidly than the city GRF budget in recent years.

  • Cleveland ranked 6th in the rate of violent crime per 1,000 residents in 2018.[1] The number of incidents of crime dropped over the past 10 years, but so did the population. The violent crime rate rose from 13 per 1,000 residents in 2010 to 15.2 in 2019. The actual number of homicides increased by 54 to 177 in 2020.[2]

  • In 2019, Cleveland had 47 law enforcement staff per 10,000 residents. The city’s 41 uniformed officers per 10,000 residents is almost two times higher than the median rate for big cities. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting system warns against comparisons — not all cities report; the way crimes are categorized vary — but law enforcement staffing in Cleveland is high among the 8,950 cities reporting, particularly in uniformed officers.

  • Judgments and settlements for Cleveland police misconduct total $46.9 million since 2010, rising in recent years with a few increasingly large settlements. The process to reach a judgment or settlement takes time; an $18 million settlement reached in 2020 dated back to a 1975 incident. The median between 2010 and 2020 was $30,000; the average was $381,000.

  • Two-thirds of Cleveland Division of Police (CDP) officers are white; that proportion is the same as in 2008. Two-thirds of the people of the city are Black, brown or Indigenous.[3]

  • The CDP operates under a consent decree with the federal Department of Justice (DOJ), established in 2015 to correct systemic deficiencies and practices that violated constitutional rights. Cleveland is the only city to have had two such settlements, the first in 2002-04.[4]

  • The current consent decree called for investment in policy development, training, equipment, and information technology. The city has reached operational or general compliance with 37% of the 255 monitored elements of the decree. The timeframe for compliance was extended from 2020 to 2022.

  • A Case Western Reserve University law professor was allegedly forced off the consent decree monitoring team for a public statement that included: “American policing as a system is pathologically brutal in its interactions with Black people…” Groups including the Cleveland branch of the NAACP called for the replacement of the court’s appointee, Hassan Aden, who is in charge of the monitoring and the monitoring team.[5] The professor has since been reinstated.

  • The Cuyahoga County Board of elections recently certified signatures collected by Citizens for a Safer Cleveland to put a police accountability initiative on the city’s November election ballot.[6]

  • The city has worked and continues to work outside of the consent decree to foster better relations between police and community. The city’s Community Relations Board and the Office of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunity hold events and support programming to foster good relations between the community and the police and provide assistance in non-violent intervention and mediation.[7]

What’s ahead

The federal Department of Justice boosted funding for traditional policing and expanded officer involvement from several federal law enforcement agencies in 2020 as part of “Operation Legend,” an initiative of the Trump Administration that targeted seven cities, including Cleveland.[8] The city continues staffing up in the CDP, budgeting in 2021 for 99 new officers and a large training class.[9] Some mayoral candidates call for more.[10]

The CDP budget and the activities it supports will be a central issue in the mayoral election and for residents interested in safe and vibrant communities for all Clevelanders. Additionally, the larger context of public safety in a city where far too many are experiencing poverty and the toxic stress that poverty causes cannot be separated from the question of safe communities and policing.[11]

The American Rescue Plan Act will bring $512 million to the city. There are many ways this funding could be used to support the people and communities that have been hard hit by the pandemic. That includes using the funds to shape a new approach to public safety. The U.S. Treasury’s “Interim Final Rule for State and Local Coronavirus Funds” specifically suggests support of evidence-based community violence intervention programs.[12] These funds can be used to address the root causes of violence by alleviating poverty, improving health, and creating a safer, healthier city.

The CDP remains in non-compliance with consent decree mandates on provision of public information.[13] This works against the perception of public accountability and limited our understanding of the budget. The Public Safety Department has not yet responded to our requests for an interview.[14]

The 28-county northeast Ohio region makes up 36% of the Ohio economy.[15] It is anchored by the city of Cleveland, among the poorest big cities of the nation.[16] In 2019, 381,009 people were estimated to live in Cleveland, 15,806 residents fewer than in 2010, a loss of 3.9%. The population declined by an estimated 97,000 people or 20.3% between 2000 and 2019.[17]

The median age of a Clevelander is 36.3 — younger than the state average (39.4) and the national average (38.9). The population is racially diverse, about half Black, a third white, 13% Latinx, 2% Asian and .3% Indigenous (Figure 1).

Figure 1

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

In 2019, 32.7% of Clevelanders experienced poverty, compared to the state rate of 13.1%. The median household income was $30,907 compared to a national median income of $65,712 and $56,602 statewide.[18]

A recent study of poverty in Ohio’s largest urban counties found 46.7% of Black residents lived in high poverty neighborhoods while 8.2% of white residents live in high poverty neighborhoods.[19] Poverty is concentrated in many Cleveland census tracts, contributing to toxic stress and poor health outcomes, and those areas are also areas where higher rates of Black residents live.[20] The city is considered among the most segregated in the nation.[21]

National research finds that Black, brown and Indigenous people are more likely to be on the receiving end of police violence.[22] About two-thirds of the CDP force is white, and two-thirds of residents are Black, brown or Indigenous: that ratio has remained intact, going back to 2008.[23] Cleveland police unholster the guns at the highest rates in predominantly Black neighborhoods (Unholstering is analyzed because it may be a precursor to violence). The disproportionate unholstering rate is not necessarily a consequence of higher crime rates.[24] The CDP has achieved operational (not general) compliance in just one of nine provisions relating to bias-free policing monitored under the consent decree.[25]

Cleveland has a long history of Black power. Cleveland was a major hub for the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s: Around 50 separate Civil Rights groups operated there, from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) to the Black Muslims. The city elected Carl Stokes as mayor in 1967, making him the first African-American mayor of a major city in the United States.[26] There was a historic integration of the schools when the NAACP sued the Cleveland schools and the State of Ohio in 1973.[27]

Professor Rhonda Williams documents both the rise of leadership and strife in Cleveland in her textbook: “Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century.”[28] The strength of Cleveland’s Black community brought national attention to the conditions of Black residents: as long ago as 1966, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission held six days of hearings in Cleveland examining conditions facing Black residents.[29] Community leaders continue to push for ways to ease the obstacles and challenges African-Americans face and bridge divisions in the Cleveland community.[30]

Crime in Cleveland

Researchers have established the nexus of poverty and crime. Using the National Crime Victimization Survey data between 2008 and 2012, researchers found people in households experiencing poverty had a higher rate of violent victimization than those in high-income households. It also found that when disaggregated by socio-economic class, crime rates were higher among the white residents with the lowest incomes than among the Black residents with the lowest incomes.[31] This corroborated a 1996 study of census tracts in Columbus, Ohio, that examined crime rates, poverty, and race.[32]

A 2018 federal Department of Justice study ranked Cleveland 6thamong cities with populations over 250,000 in the rate of violent crime.[33] Cleveland’s property crime rate has declined over the decade (from 55 incidents per 1,000 residents in 2010 to 44.7 in 2019) but the rate of violent crime rose as population fell, from 13 per 1,000 residents in 2010 to 15.2 in 2019.[34] CDP’s 2020 annual crime statistics report shows a 136% increase in homicides compared to 2019 (an increase of 54 homicides, with a total of 177 in 2020).[35] Case Western Reserve University professor Dan Flannery, director of the Begun Center for Violence Prevention Research Education, suggests factors driving the violence include the struggling economy, social isolation, the proliferation of guns on the street, increased drug use, domestic violence and reduced social services.[36]

The consent decree

In 2013, Mayor Frank Jackson asked the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) to review police practices following a police chase in which a third of the city's on-duty police officers participated without permission. The chase ended in a hail of gunfire that killed Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, the two people pursued.[37] The DOJ found a lack of accountability and that some of CPD‘s practices violated constitutional rights. To prevent a federal lawsuit, the city entered into a “consent decree” with the Department of Justice: This is a court-enforceable agreement or settlement that ends a dispute or a lawsuit between parties.[38] The court monitors 255 provisions for CDP improvement under the decree (see table in appendix).

The 105-page agreement detailed a plan to correct the problems.[39] City officials created and funded new offices and functions to help implement the decree: The Community Police Commission provides community input on CDP policy, practices and reviews citizen complaints; The Police Inspector General audits police policies and practices and examines citizen complaint investigations conducted by the Office of Professional Standards;[40] and a Department of Justice office assists, coordinates, and monitors compliance. It also established the Mental Health Response Advisory Committee, which scrutinizes the department's treatment of individuals experiencing mental health crises (this entity is not listed as a funded part of the CDP budget).

In addition to these offices, the Office of Professional Standards and the Civilian Police Review Board, in place prior to the consent decree, were separately funded in the city budget starting in 2016 and will be funded at a combined $1.7 million in 2021. The city will spend $6 million in 2021 on functions related to the administration of the consent decree, 2.7% of the total CDP budget.

The CDP did not meet the consent decree’s 2020 deadline for completion. Of the 255 provisions monitored, a little over a third (37.1%) are in operational or general compliance (see appendix for a detailed table). The timeline for compliance was extended to 2022.

The 2021 operating budget for the City of Cleveland, totaling $1.8 billion, includes self-funding entities like the Cleveland Stadium, Hopkins airport, Cleveland Public Power, the water utility and other smaller enterprises ranging from golf to cemeteries. These entities are supported by fees and charges. The operating budget also includes services supported by special or dedicated revenue funds.

The focus of this analysis is smaller: the $665 million General Revenue Fund (GRF), which makes up just under half (44%) of the city’s total operating budget. This fund is supported by taxpayer dollars that the mayor and city council allocate for use. The chart below shows the main uses of the General Revenue Fund. Public safety expenditures in 2021 will be $372 million, which make up 56% of the GRF budget. The share of public safety in the budget has declined since 2010, when it accounted for 61% of GRF expenditures, but it remains a dominant use of taxpayer funds. The Department of Public Safety includes several divisions: Police, Fire, emergency services and others.

Figure 2

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

In 2021, the city budget will grow by an anticipated 2% over 2020. In the five years including and between 2017 and 2021, Cleveland’s GRF will grow by an estimated 11.6% (2.3% a year, on average).

The table below shows the relative size of the increase over the five-year period by the major departments in the city budget.[41] The department of public safety will grow at a higher rate than the overall budget, by 13.2%. Faster growth is also seen in the small departments of aging, public health and building and housing. Public works, finance and the mayor’s office get a boost as well.

Figure 3

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

On an inflation-adjusted basis, the city’s GRF budget has decreased since 2001. There are a third fewer jobs supported by the GRF in 2021 compared to 2001. In 2001, city officials funded and employed 7,296 people to provide services for residents. In 2017 there were 5,096; and in 2021, there will be 4,910. Over the same period, the city’s population declined by an estimated 97,000 people or 20.3%.[42]

Since state lawmakers began making deep cuts to the state revenue sharing program in 2012, they have hurt the finances of all Ohio’s cities. Adjusted for inflation, Cleveland is receiving $36.5 million less in state revenue sharing in 2021 than it did in 2011. At the same time, the phase-out of state tax reimbursements for a local property tax eliminated in 2005 took additional funds from the city, from schools and from social service and other important levy-funded programs.[43] The squeeze to city services and human services came as people and communities were still reeling from the recession of 2008 and increased the difficulties of many places and regions of the state.[44]

Budget of the department of public safety

The public safety budget includes police, fire, emergency medical services, animal control, corrections (the contract with the county jail), administration and support. It also includes the offices and activities related to the consent decree. Figure 4 shows the relative size of offices within the Department of Public Safety.

Out of the $372 million Public Safety budget in 2021, the CDP accounts for $218.2 million or 59%. The next largest division is for fire protection, at $98.3 million. City officials allocate $43.3 million more for the departmental budget over five years (13.2%); $33.2 million more for the CDP budget (17.9%); and $10.5 million more for the Division of Fire — the other large division — (11.9%). A big reduction in the division of corrections reflects the city contract with the Cuyahoga County jail for services. That division, which oversees the contract with the county, gets a big increase in 2021. Although the size of the four offices associated with the consent decree is small, city officials have increased funding for each of them, perhaps as the CDP strives to meet the mandates of the consent decree.

Figure 4

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

Budget of the Cleveland Division of Police

The CDP budget has taken up about a third of total GRF funding in Cleveland over the past decade. This is significant but not unique among big cities.

This section describes components of the police budget itself within the GRF. There are dollars that support policing that are not tallied up in the police budget: capital funds and the cost of settlements, judgments, and claims. Those funds, as well as Department of Justice (federal) funding, are described below. The offices within the CDP are described in the appendix.

Figure 5

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

City officials will increase spending on police by 17.9% between 2017 and 2021, about 3.5% a year, outpacing the overall increase in the GRF of 11.6%, or an average of 2.3% a year.

The growth in spending is relatively new, GRF funding of police has fallen on an inflation-adjusted basis over the past two decades. The figure below shows change in the police budget over 20 years on an inflation-adjusted basis: adjusted for inflation, annual funding for the CDP is $26.3 million below what it was in 2001, a drop of 15.4%.[45] The population of the city of Cleveland fell by 20.3% between 2001 and 2019 (a loss of 97,000 residents).

Figure 6

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

The figure below gives key expenditure categories within the police budget and shows the growth over the past five years. Salaries and wages increase the most, by $23.2 million or about 19%, with increases in staff. Benefits grow too, but more modestly. The detailed budget is provided in the appendix.

Figure 7

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

Figure 8

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

The overall police budget rises by 17.9% over five years but the line for salaries and wages outpaces that, with the most significant increase — almost $11 million — occurring in 2018, reflecting a rise in staffing (discussed below).

Uniformed overtime rose from $14.7 million in 2017 to $17.3 million in 2018. It has declined from the recent 2017 peak. A longer-trend view reveals that uniformed overtime spending increased sharply over the decade and will be 37% higher in 2021 than in 2010, with an average annual rate increase of 3.6%. A sharp rise occurred in 2016, corresponding to a jump in 911 calls,[46] but also to revelry around the Cleveland Cavaliers’ National Basketball Association championship and the heightened security around the Republican National Convention. The cost of overtime will decline in 2021 but not to pre-2016 levels.

CDP staffing

Cleveland had 47 law enforcement personnel per 10,000 residents in 2019, according to the latest numbers in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting System (FBI-UCR) — almost double the median of 24 per 10,000. Not all cities report into the system — Columbus does not — and categorization of crime varies. However, Cleveland ranked 9thamong the 89 cities with more than 250,000 residents reporting into that system in 2019.[47]

Cleveland ranked first in Ohio among cities with more than 50,000 residents reporting into the FBI-UCR system. Cincinnati ranked second, with 38 law enforcement personnel per 10,000 population.

CDP staffing is heavily skewed toward uniformed officers. The FBI-UCR system showed Cleveland ranked 7thamong cities over 250,000, with 41 per 10,000 population. The median was 19. On the other hand, Cleveland had just six civilian police employees per 10,000 population, right at the middle among big cities reporting into the system.[48]

CDP has reduced uniformed staff by 281 positions over the past two decades and civilian staff by 638 positions, in part because the contract with the county for jail services eliminated the need for the position of “institutional guard” for the city jail. There are far fewer clerical and technical workers. Police overall staffing has dropped by about a third over this period, most of that between 2000 and 2010. City population dropped by 20.3% during this time.

The consent decree required the CDP to develop a comprehensive staffing plan.[49] CDP increased the number of uniformed officers — as had been expected.[50] The city justified the 2016 boost in the income tax in part with the need to fulfill the mandate for additional police staff.[51] The table below also shows the number of uniformed staff projected in the 2021 budget book: an increase of 99 additional patrol officers.

Figure 9

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

It is not unexpected for the number of uniformed officers to rise and fall. Attrition caused an average of 80 departures per year between 2001 and 2017.[52] The division holds training classes to address expected staffing needs: in 2021, city leaders earmarked funds to train 210 individuals. Between 2014 and 2020 of the 1,420 people who went through the training academies, CDP hired 810, or 57% of the trainees and did not hire 610 (43%).[53]

Over the decade, the number of CDP’s most senior officers — Patrol I staff — has dropped while numbers in less senior ranks have grown.

Figure 10

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

The police officers on the streets of Cleveland do not — as a group — look like the majority of Clevelanders. While two-thirds of the “sworn” police force is white,[54] two-third of Clevelanders are Black, brown, Indigenous, or other people of color. Things have not changed much over time: in 2008, 64% of sworn police officers were white.[55] Of the 810 new staff hired between 2014 and 2020, 63% were white, 24% were Black and the remaining 13% were primarily Latinx.[56]

External police forces and mutual aid agreements

Police departments at institutions like Cleveland State University, Case Western Reserve University, the hospitals, public housing, and others add to the number of uniformed officers within the city. These departments have memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with CDP, including access to training in various consent decree subjects and independent means to handle complaints made against their police.[57] It is common practice to have mutual aid agreements among neighboring police departments: In Cleveland, that includes police forces at institutions, the county and neighboring communities. These external forces are not monitored for compliance with the consent decree.[58] In their assessment of police response to the 2020 protests that ensued after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the monitoring team called for a redrafting of mutual aid MOUs to clarify expectations around command structures, use of force and other improvements.[59] Following his high profile run-in with the Case Western Reserve University police department — a case of mistaken identity - Cleveland City Councilman Kevin Conwell called for external forces to be drawn into compliance with consent decree training.[60]

Federal funding

Federal government funding and priorities affect policing in Cleveland. The consent decree itself is an agreement with the federal government. Over the past five years CDP has received funding from the Federal Department of Transportation (annually, in the tens of thousands) and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (once, in the hundreds of thousands), but every year it receives several million in funding from the DOJ, the primary source of federal support.[61]

The table below shows annual federal Department of Justice expenditures in 2010-2019. Data on expenditure of federal DOJ funds for 2020 has not yet been published by the city.

Figure 11

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

In 2016, Cleveland received millions for security at the Republican National Convention.[62] Expenditures of federal funds remained high in 2017 (many grants are multi-year; the table above shows expenditures, not receipt of awards).

The city has not yet released its single audit report of grant expenditures for 2020, but it received an influx of multi-year DOJ grant funds last year. In December of 2019, the Department of Justice announced “Operation Relentless Pursuit,” a federal initiative focused on fighting violent crime in seven cities, including Cleveland.[63] The CDP received $8 million in a multi-year grant to hire 30 officers.[64] A second phase called “Operation Legend” assigned 25 federal investigators to Cleveland. These officers were drawn from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.[65] Mayor Jackson recently has joined other mayors in seeking additional federal aid to combat the rise of gun violence.[66]

The federal DOJ plays a significant role in policing and justice in Cleveland. It offers protection for residents and management guidance, albeit under threat of legal action, through the consent decree. It funds direct police services. Although grants are multi-year, a new federal administration can change local priorities by ceasing funds for one program or type of program and starting or increasing funds for different ones.[67]

Capital budget

Capital projects include public assets ranging from roads and parks to information technology and equipment. These funds are not covered in the city’s operating budget nor in the GRF budget. They are funded through a combination of existing city resources, debt (general obligation and revenue bonds), state and federal funds and private sources and are detailed in the multi-year capital improvements program for the city.[68]

Projects listed in the first year of the multi-year capital improvement program are adopted as part of that year's capital budget.[69] The figure below shows funding as budgeted in the capital improvement programs for the Cleveland Division of Police.

Over the past five years the biggest capital expense budgeted for the CDP has been for facilities construction, including improvements to the mounted horse stable. The remainder was primarily for information technology, including in-car technology. The largest purchase of information technology occurred in 2016, the year following implementation of the consent decree.

Figure 12

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

The consent decree investigation found Cleveland police officers in need of improvements in basic equipment, physical structures, and technology.[70] The 2018 information technology plan approved by the monitoring team calls for the city to spend more than $27 million in equipment and upgrades between 2018 and 2023.[71] However, over the past five years, Cleveland has spent or programmed just $14 million for capital improvements for the CDP. The city’s website provides no updates since 2019 nor does it provide updates on actual capital expenditures made.[72]

The operating budget indicates funds for equipment would be located in the capital budget, but we were not able to find an accounting (nor projection) for police equipment in the Capital Improvement Programs. Reporting at the time of the Republican National Convention indicated the city purchased $20 million in equipment and other items used for security purposes, but we were unable to track this in the city budget books. The city has not provided us with information about these purchases, which reportedly included riot-protection suits and batons, motorcycles, horse trailers, water packs, bicycles, tactical armor, rain ponchos, horse supplies and rental of about three miles of interlocking steel barriers.[73]

Judgments and settlements

Settlements and judgments for police misconduct drive up the cost of policing. The city paid out $45 million in settlements and judgments related to police actions between and including the years of 2010 and 2020.[74]

Figure 13

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

The city of Cleveland is self-insured;[75] it pays settlements, claims, and judgments out of a line item in the Department of Law’s GRF budget, funded by taxpayer dollars and in some years, debt financing.[76] Settlements are not all paid out in the same year they are reached.

In the 11 years between and including 2010 and 2020 Cleveland paid out 123 settlements and judgments related to policing. The median size of a settlement was $30,000; the average is $381,007. There have been very large individual settlements in recent years. For example, the average size of settlements and judgments in 2020 was over $18.36 million, but one settlement — an $18 million judgment due to the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of three Black men, Rickey Jackson, Wiley Bridgeman, and Kwame Ajamu, which began in 1975 — accounted for nearly all of the expense.[77] Excluding that case, the average size in 2020 was $44,550. A full list of settlements and cases is provided in the appendix.

Programs that link police and community

The Community Relations Board has a mission of resolving community conflicts, reducing inequities, and developing pro-active strategies for affirmative actions and programs that promote multi-cultural harmony. Its many programs include youth engagement and crisis intervention. The Office of Prevention, Intervention and Opportunity works through the City's 22 recreation centers to provide trauma-informed care for families and the community.

Figure 14

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

City Council earmarked $277,360 in the 2021 budget for the creation of the Division of Health Equity and Social Justice within the city’s Department of Health. This office has the mission of identifying underlying determinants that promote or compromise health in disadvantaged groups. It finds evidence-based strategies to address these challenges and works to improve health outcomes and overall quality of life for disadvantaged populations. Council funded this office for the first time in 2021 at $277,360.

Cleveland residents — like people across the country — are calling on elected officials to develop a new approach to public safety; one that builds healthy communities from the ground up through things great public schools, vibrant parks, and well-paying jobs. For years, cities, including Cleveland, relied heavily on police, without addressing the root causes of crime and violence. Cleveland and its residents face many challenges, including poverty, segregated neighborhoods, and a high rate of violent crime. The police department has not come into compliance with mandates to curb unconstitutional use of force. Over the past 20 years the GRF budget shrank as the population declined. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the police budget declined as well, but it remains the largest single public service funded by the GRF, making up about a third of expenditures.

Over the past five years, city officials have increased CDP’s budget faster than overall growth of the GRF, largely due to increases in staffing of uniformed officers. The city ranked 6thin rates of deadly crime in 2018 and 9thin number of law enforcement staff per 10,000 population (47) in 2019. The staffing was mostly uniformed officers (41 of the 47). The number of uniformed officers will grow in 2021.

Recent reporting found that the unholstering of weapons — a precursor to violence — is highest in Cleveland neighborhoods with a high proportion of Black residents.[78] The CDP ranks do not reflect the diversity of the city it serves. Hiring since 2014 steadily maintained the majority-white force in a majority-Black and brown city. Diversity on the force has not improved since 2008.

In Cleveland — and across the nation — some neighborhoods never recovered from prior recessions, losing residents and becoming more isolated, segregated and poor. Institutions — hospitals, schools, churches and businesses — closed or left as well. The loss of social and economic infrastructure made these communities more vulnerable to the trauma of violence, including gang activity.[79] As violence increased, traditional police practices, with the support of federal dollars, have risen. In the past, such traditional approaches caused disproportionate harm in communities of color.[80]

Residents are concerned about crime but they are also concerned about police conduct. The CDP has not reached operational or general compliance in 63% of the mandates of the consent decree, which has been extended through 2022. It has achieved general or operational compliance with just one of nine provisions related to implicit bias training according to the most recent report of the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team. A coalition of groups is getting signatures for a referendum to strengthen CDP accountability to the community.[81]

Policing is done by people. More than 90% of the police budget is in personnel — primarily uniformed personnel. As more officers are hired — as budgeted for in the 2021 budget and called for by some mayoral candidates — the police budget will expand. Where might money for expanded approaches or new approaches to public safety come from? This question will be important in the mayoral debates. But there are needs in Cleveland that affect public health and safety as larger issues. Over the next two years, Cleveland will receive $512 million from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that can be used to address some of the city’s toughest social and economic problems. These funds are intended to end the pandemic, improve health, and rescue people, families and communities that need it the most. City officials should use ARPA funds to lay the groundwork for a healthier future — in coordination with the institutions active in the community, including the CDP. It is critical that the voice of Black residents be central in how these funds are used.[82]

The poet Reginald Dwane Betts says: “….understanding Black folks’ relationship to police is central to understanding racism.”[83] These findings, the backdrop of violence that gave rise to the consent decree and the broader history of policing in America, a history many white people may not know — which includes early police forces being established to control an enslaved population[84] — all call out for a public safety agenda that goes beyond traditional policing. Such an approach could lighten the burden on the CDP, allow the Division room to comply with more consent decree provisions and direct its resources to stopping and solving violent crime. This could pave the way for all residents, elected officials and city administrators, and those serving within the CDP to find new ways to build a safer, healthier city.


We appreciate the help of many people we interviewed and who reviewed various versions of this report and gave us background d ad context. We thank the staff of City Hall who answered many questions. We are grateful for the support of the Gund Foundation and the many other foundations, partners, and people who support our work.


Appendix A: Offices and activities within the CDP

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

Source: City of Cleveland at

The Cleveland Division of Police within the Department of Public Safety includes the following offices, as described in the 2021 budget book include:

  • Administration: Provides all necessary support activities for the Field Operations and Homeland Security Operations.

  • Field Operations: Has objectives of protection against loss of life, bodily injury, and property loss. This office runs the five police districts in the city of Cleveland (see map, below).

The Five Police District of the Cleveland Division of Police

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?


  • Homeland special operations is focused on financial crimes, homicides, sexual assaults, drug trafficking, threats, and criminal actions. The 2021 Budget Book of the city of Cleveland describes new functions adopted in 2020 that will carry on in 2021. Several were started with federal funding in 2020 and are connected to federal agencies.
    • Operation Legend: Cleveland was one of seven cities selected nationally to receive federal dollars in the summer of 2020 to fight violent and gun crime. This is a federally funded initiative.
    • Violent Crime Reduction Teams and the Gang Impact Unit include federally deputized officers who may take gun cases federally.
    • Safe-Smart CLE the Real Time Crime Center has authority to increase street lighting at crime scenes which allows better identification and evidence collection as well as safety for Investigators and the general public. This initiative was funded with a federal grant.

  • Civilian Police Review Board (involved in consent decree oversight) reviews all completed investigations conducted by Office of Professional Standards, deliberates, and then determines if a civil violation of policy, training, or rules and regulations occurred.

  • Office of Professional Standards (involved in consent decree oversight) Investigates citizen complaints against Cleveland Division of Police personnel and presents the complete investigations to the Civilian Police Review Board for hearing and disposition.

  • The Police Inspector General (Established with consent decree) - works with the Division of Police to achieve compliance with policies, procedures, state and federal laws, and the requirements of the consent decree.

  • Department of Justice (Established with consent decree) - This office accounts for expenses directly related to the consent decree in the areas of recruiting, training, independent monitor review, additional personnel, and information technology needs.

  • Community Police Commission (Established with consent decree) - This entity works with Cleveland communities to develop recommendations on policies and practices, including community and problem-oriented policing, bias-free policing, police transparency. The 13-member board represents faith-based organizations, civil rights advocates, the business/philanthropic community, organizations representing communities of color, advocacy organizations, youth or student organizations, academia, and individuals with expertise in the challenges facing people with mental illness or the homeless.

There are services for mental health crises, both existing and new. There has been a county-wide crisis mental health service since the mid-1990s.

  • A “Mobile crisis team,” mostly funded through the county Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADAMHS) board at $1.6 million a year, sponsors a crisis helpline. They are not “emergency” responders, rather “crisis” responders, who take calls and help people find services. This service is not part of the CDP.

  • Within the CDP, the co-responder program pairs a mental health worker who rides with a police officer. There are five such teams, one in each police district, who work together for 40 hours per week, generally second shift, in each of the five districts. These teams listen to police scanners and go out when there are mental health calls — not as first responders but after first responders have cleared the scene.

Appendix B

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

Appendix C

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

Appendix D

What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?What’s in the Cleveland Police Budget?

[1] Smith, Erica L., and Alexia D. Cooper. Offenses Known to Law Enforcement in Large Cities, 2018. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jan. 2020,

[2] Crime rates are given only through 2019 because there are census estimates of 2019 population; the estimates of 2020 population have not yet been released. The data on crime rates is calculated based on data from the Cleveland Division of Police 2020 Year End report: Part 1 Crimes 2010-2020 at

[3]In 2019, the Census estimated 32.2% of Cleveland residents were white; 48.7% Black, 12.7% Latinx, 2.4% Asian, .3% Indigenous, .2% some other race and 3.5 percent multiple races.

[4] The 2002 settlement was for use of deadly force and lasted until 2004. See McCarthy, Tom and Daniel McGraw, “Cleveland announces historic second settlement over chronic police abuse,” The Guardian, May 26, 2015 at In 2017, the nation had 14 cities operating under consent decrees. See Seewer, John, How city departments with Consent decree are faring,” Associated Press, April 4, 2017 at The Trump Administration limited the use of consent decrees but the Biden Administration has rescinded that order. See Carrega, Christina, “AG Garland ends restrictions on consent decrees, aims to hold troubled police departments accountable,” CNN, April 16 2021 at


[6] Higgs, Robert, “Overhaul of police oversight proposed for Cleveland Charter would give new power to the people,”, July 10, 2020 at See also the web page of Citizens for a Safer Cleveland at

[7] City of Cleveland Community Relations Board Youth Programs website:

[8] Operation Legend Expanded to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee, Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, July 29, 2020 at

[9] City of Cleveland Budget Book for 2021 at

[10] Pagonakis, Joe, In-Depth: Cleveland mayoral candidates respond to July 4 weekend gun violence surge, WEWS 5 Cleveland at

[11] Woodrum, Amanda and Deanna Krokos, “Building a Healthy Ohio Overcoming barriers to health stemming from poverty, segregation and racism< Policy Matters Ohio, November 19, 2018 at

[12] Interim final rule for Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, United States Department of the Treasury,

[13] The ninth semi-annual report of the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team at

[14] For example, we looked in vain for an accounting of city expenditures on police equipment. We found that the number of 911 calls to the Cleveland police jumped by 170,000 calls in 2016 and that uniformed police overtime jumped at the same time: a causal relationship, or a new joint dispatching agreement with a neighboring community that happened to coincide with a drop in patrol officers? We asked about these and other issues through e-mails, public information requests and phone calls. We want to thank the public information staff and others throughout all departments of City Hall and City Council who were unfailingly polite and as helpful as they could be: in several cases went over and above the call of duty to help us.. We are grateful for their efforts

[15] The Two Tomorrows. Fund for Our Economic Future,

[16] “Cleveland Overtakes Detroit as Poorest Big City in U.S., Census Finds.” The Detroit News, 17 Sept. 2020,

[17] In 2019, the census bureau estimated Cleveland’s population was 381,009; it was 478,005 in 2000. declined over the two decades by about 97,000 people. Census Bureau Quickfacts at

[18] Census Quickfacts for Cleveland, Ohio and the United States at

[19] Segety, Jason, “The Geography of High Poverty Neighborhoods: A view from Ohio,” Economic Innovation Group, July 8, 2020 at

[20] Woodrum, Op.Cit, “Poverty x Census Tract.” Tableau Public by Policy Matters Ohio,

[21] Moulthrop, Dan, “Cleveland’s Race Problem: How longstanding injustice could cripple the city’s rebirth, Politico Magazine, February 19, 2015 at; see also “Divided by Design, Timeline: A Historical Tour of Greater Cleveland's Segregation, Ideastream Public Media,

[22] Since the killing of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in 2014, more researchers have focused on the impact of race and ethnicity on police use of force. One study found about 1,000 civilians are killed each year by law-enforcement officers in the United States. By one estimate, Black men are 2.5 times more likely than white men to be killed by police during their lifetime (Edwards, F., Hedwig, L. & Esposito, M. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 116, 16793-16798 (2019)

Another found Black people who were fatally shot by police seemed to be twice as likely as white people to be unarmed (Nix, J., Campbell, B. A., Byers, E. H. & Alpert, G. P. Criminol. Public Policy 16, 309—340 (2017).). Cited in Peeples, Lynn, “What the data say about police brutality and racial bias — and what reforms might work, May 2021,, Nature, at

[23] Data provided by the City of Cleveland Public Records Center; also, see Dunn, Ronnie A. The Cleveland Police Review Board: An Examination of Citizen Complaints and Complainants’ Experience with the Citizen Complaint Process. Cleveland State University, (cited in Caniglia, John. “Cleveland State University Prof’s Study Blasts Cleveland Police Review Board.” Cleveland.Com, 19 Jan. 2011,

[24]Standifer, Cid, “Cleveland's Fifth District Cops, Who Patrol Predominantly Black Neighborhoods, Draw Their Guns Twice as Often as Citywide Average,” Scene, September 25, 2020 at

[25] Ninth semiannual report of the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team, Op.Cit. see detailed table in the appendix.

[26] Boissoneault, Lorraine, What Happened When Violence Broke Out on Cleveland’s East Side 50 Years Ago? Smithsonian Magazine, July 24, 2018, at

[27] Moulthrop, Dan, Op.Cit.

[28] Williams, Rhonda,: Concrete Demands: The Search for Black Power in the 20th Century, Routledge, December 11, 2014.

[29] Castele, Nick, “Listen to Testimony from the 1966 U.S. Civil Rights Commission Hearing in Cleveland, IdeaStream, July 11, 2016 at

[30] Moulthrop, Dan, Op.Cit.

[31] “Household Poverty and Nonfatal Violent Victimization, 2008-2012.” U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 13 Nov. 2014,

[32] Krivo, Lauren and Ruth D. Peterso, Extremely Disadvantaged Neighborhoods and Urban Crime, Social Forces, Volume 75, Issue 2, December 1996, Pages 619 — 648 at

[33] Smith, Erica L., and Alexia D. Cooper. Offenses Known to Law Enforcement in Large Cities, 2018. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Jan. 2020,

[34] Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reporting System at

[35] Cleveland Division of Police 2020 Year End report at Note: Number of investigations dropped by 10% over the decade. “Solve” rates for homicides dropped from 65% in 2015 to 49% in Cleveland 2020. The solve rate of sexual assaults was 24% in 2019 and 32% in 2020.[35] The Department of Justice’s “National Public Safety Partnership” told the city in 2020 that it needs additional investigators to solve the rising number of homicides. National comparisons on the solving of crime cases are difficult to make because there is no uniform way of defining “solve.” In 2017, the latest data provided through the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting System (FBI-UCR), cities of 250,000 to 499,999 in population averaged a “clearance” rate (arrest or other action that ends an investigation, referred to as “exceptional means”) of 53.3%; the CDP’s rate in that year was 58%.[35] Investigations are undertaken at the discretion of the Chief or his designee. A criminal investigation will be followed up by the specialized unit charged with the follow up for that particular type of crime at the discretion of the officer I charge, according to retired Sgt. Richard Jackson (ret.), past CoChair of the Community Police Commission.

[36] Ferrise, Adam, “It’s like war numbers’: Cleveland endures worst homicide rate in recent history in 2020,, January 1, 2021, at

[37] Atassi, Leila, “Cleveland police under investigation by U.S. Justice Department (video) (photo gallery)<, March 14, 2013 (updated Jan. 12, m2019) at ; see also “A citizens Guide to the Cleveland Consent Decree,: Shubert Center for Child Studies, Case Western Reserve University, Working Document, January 2017 at

[38] Other cities with consent decrees in place include New Orleans; Puerto Rico; Seattle; Portland (Oregon); Detroit; Virgin Islands; East Haven (Connecticut); Warren (Ohio); Albuquerque (New Mexico); Los Angeles County; Meridian (Mississippi) and Maricopa County. See “Police Reforms and Accountability Accomplishments, United States Department of Justice at

[39] Shaffer, Corey, “Mayor Frank Jackson, Justice Department agree to Cleveland police reforms,, May 26, 2015 (updated January 11,2019) at

[40] Heisig, Eric, “Cleveland hires police inspector general, mandated as part of court-enforced reform efforts,, August 6, 2019 at

[41] Given low-inflation across the short time period examine in this table, and for consistency with the figures used in the city’s budget documents these figures are not inflation adjusted. For longer stretches of time such as our comparisons to 2011 figures we have adjusted the figures using (whatever index was used).

[42] Census Quickfacts, Op.Cit.

[43] Patton, Wendy, “State Cuts sting Ohio Localities,” Policy Matters Ohio, December 19, 2016, at

[44] Patton, Wendy, “Ohio after COVID-19: Looking to the future, learning from history, Policy Matters Ohio, May 14, 2020, at

[45] Inflation adjustment is used here to analyze long-term changes. Otherwise figures are not adjusted for changes. CDP budget figures taken from the Cleveland budget books, 2004-2021; inflation is adjusted using the CPI-U-RS; inflation for 2021 is based on the Federal Reserve Bank Forecast reported in the Washington Post on June 16, 2021. See Siegel, Rachel and Jeff Stein, “Fed estimates inflation will grow faster than projected just 3 months ago and moves up expectations for rate hike,” Washington Post, June 16, 2021, at

[46] The number of 911 calls that police responded to increased sharply in 2016, rising by 170,000 calls over the prior year (see Figure 3, below). The 2017 staffing report conducted for the consent decree found false alarms are a contributing factor, finding that the Cleveland Division of Police received 30,305 alarm calls in 2015 and responded to 23,659 (both residential and business); 23,240 (98.3%) were false. While significant, the problem of false alarms does fully not explain the rise in calls starting in 2016 and continuing thereafter. We asked the city for a comment on this but did not receive any further explanation.

[47] The FBI-UCR includes 8,950 cities but is not comprehensive, excluding, for example, the city of Columbus.

[48] FBI-UCR 2019, Op.Cit.

[49] The mandate of the consent decree for a staffing plan was to address and provide for effective community and problem-oriented policing; to ensure, well-trained staff and resources to conduct timely misconduct investigations; a sufficient number of supervisors and enough staff to allow CDP to meet all consent decree requirements including, but not limited to, rigorous investigations and reviews of force incidents; specialized crisis intervention officers; supervisors that can competently supervise officers and review stops, searches, and arrests and the implementation of an Early Intervention System. Motion to Approve Cleveland Division of Police Staffing Plan. Cleveland Police Monitoring Team, 21 Feb. 2019,

[50] Butler, Captain Michael, “ Cleveland Division Of Police Staffing Report, 2017, Cleveland Police Monitoring Team website at

[51] Atassi, Liela, “Cleveland Mayor Proposes Increasing City Income Tax to 2.5%,”, February 1, 2016 (Updated January 11, 2019) at

[52] Butler, Op.Cit..

[53] Information provided by the Cleveland public records website, June 11, 2021.

[54] Data provided by the Cleveland public records website, May 5, 2021. “Sworn” police officers have taken an oath to support the Constitution of the United States, their state, and the laws of their agency’s jurisdiction. Sworn officers also have the responsibility to ensure the safety and quality of life of the communities they serve. A tally of “Uniformed” police officers includes trainees who have not taken the oath.

[55] Dunn, Ronnie A. The Cleveland Police Review Board: An Examination of Citizen Complaints and Complainants’ Experience with the Citizen Complaint Process. Cleveland State University, (cited in Caniglia, John. “Cleveland State University Prof’s Study Blasts Cleveland Police Review Board.” Cleveland.Com, 19 Jan. 2011,

[56] Information provided by the Cleveland public records website, June 11, 2021.

[57] E-mail ed information from Dr. Lewis Katz, member of the Cleveland Police Commission, professor emeritus at Case Western University, June 3, 2021.

[58] The City Club of Cleveland. Livestream: Cleveland Consent Decree Discussion Session #1 01.27.2021. 2021. YouTube,

[59] The ninth semi-annual report of the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team (Op.Cit.) found: “Some of the allegations levied at CDP were apparently the result of other agencies working in collaboration with CDP. For example, one incident where a person entering a building was shot repeatedly with Pepper ball rounds was attributed to Eastside Departments Group Enforcement (“EDGE,” including Cleveland, Beachwood, Cleveland Heights, Euclid, Shaker Heights, South Euclid, and the City of University Heights) SWAT. The firing of a bean bag round resulting in the loss of an eye was attributed to the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office. While these actions were not caused by CDP, there is ample room to provide guidance and requirements in interlocal Mutual Aid agreements to ensure that the tactics and use of force deployed by visiting agencies comply with the expectations of the people of Cleveland.”

[60] The need for training among external forces active in Cleveland was also highlighted in 2018 when Councilman Kevin Conwell was stopped by Case Western Reserve University police for what he described as "walking while black," near the campus. He called for the same kind of anti-bias and sensitivity training that Cleveland police get for all external forces. Higgs, Robert. “Cleveland Councilman Kevin Conwell Decries ‘walking While Black’ and Calls for Closer Scrutiny of Case Western Reserve Police - Cleveland.Com.” Cleveland.Com, 20 Mar. 2018,; See also Cleveland Police Monitoring Team: Ninth Semiannual Report, Op.Cit.

[61] Information is from the Cleveland public records center, received June 22, 2021. The DOJ fuds received in any one year may expend for part-year or multi-year use.

[62] Tobias, Andrew J., “Federal spending bill includes $50 million for security for 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland,”, December 16, 2015 (updated January 11, 2019) at

[63] Forbes, Glen, “Federal Officials Seek To Answer Concerns About Operation Legend,” Ideastream, July 29, 2020 at

[64] Operation Relentless Pursuit initiative in Cleveland to receive $10 million in awards to support efforts to combat violent crime, Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of Ohio May 13, 2020 at

[65] Operation Legend Expanded to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee, Department of Justice Office of Public Affairs, July 29, 2020 at

[66] Mayors Letter on Gun Violence to the President, June 15, 2021 at; see also, Cleveland mayor joins several city leaders in asking President Biden for help fighting gun violence,, June 16, 2021 at

[67] Interviewees for this report noted that DOJ funding during the Obama Administration supported prevention and diversion; under the Trump Administration it supported aggressive policing of guns and gangs.

[68] City of Cleveland Budget Book for 2021 at

[69] Id.

[70] The Department of Justice’s 2014 investigation concluded that the CDP’s failure to appropriately allocate resources — including staffing and equipment — contributed to the pattern or practice of unconstitutional force. Cited in the memorandum disapproving the 2016 plan for equipment and resources at “Motion Regarding Cleveland Division Of Police Equipment & Resource Plan,” filed in the in the united states district court for the northern district of Ohio eastern division, December 19, 2016 at

[71] Heisig, Eric. “Cleveland to Spend Millions Upgrading Police Department Technology.” Cleveland.Com, 7 Nov. 2018,

[72] City of Cleveland Capital Improvement Programs, at

[73] Tobias, Andrew J. “Cleveland Is Catching Flak over Its Republican National Convention Security Planning. Will the City Be Ready?” Cleveland.Com, 4 Apr. 2016,; see also Kilpatrick, Mary, “Cleveland Seeks to Buy Rain Ponchos, Horse Supplies Ahead of Republican National Convention.” Cleveland.Com, 4 Apr. 2016,

[74] Data provided by the Cleveland public records website, accessed June 20, 2021.

[75] The city used federal dollars to purchase insurance policies for security measure during the Republican National Convention. Tobias, Andrew J., Op.Cit.

[76] Page 88 of the 2018 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report states: “The estimated claims payable liability will be paid from the fund that incurred the liability or from Judgment Bond proceeds;” A line for “settlements” is included under the city’s General Obligation Bond section in 2010-2018, although the source of settlements is not parsed by agency. See also “Action Center on Race and the Economy.”; City of Cleveland Comprehensive Annual Financial Report 2018. City of Cleveland Department of Finance, 25 June 2019, A 2018 study found that Cleveland had issued $12.1 million in judgment obligation bonds over time and offered $4 million in new bonds in 2016 to pay off earlier borrowing, at a total cost of $4.4 million to the city. See Action Center on Race and the Economy,

[77] Heisig, Eric, “Cleveland to pay $18 million to trio who spent decades in prison for wrongful murder convictions,”, May 8, 2020 at

[78] Standifer, Cid. “Cleveland’s Fifth District Cops, Who Patrol Predominantly Black Neighborhoods, Draw Their Guns Twice as Often as Citywide Average.” Cleveland Scene, 25 Sept. 2020 at

[79] Hilsenrath, Jon and Joe Barrett, “Murders Are Rising the Most in a Few Isolated Precincts of Major Cities, Wall Street Journal, May 8, 2021 at

[80]Bosman, Julie, Francis Robles and Rick Rojas, “As Battle Against Virus Wanes, Mayors Confront a New Challenge: Crime,” New York Times, June 14, 2021 at

[81] See Higgs, Op.CitFields, Cameron, “Citizens for a Safer Cleveland’s police accountability initiative gets more than 15,000 signatures to get on November ballot,”, January 16, 2021 (updated January 17, 2021) at

[82] Mansfield Frazier: Operation Focus… and Ugly Answers at

[83] Betts, Reginald Dwayne. “Richard Wright’s Newly Restored Novel Is a Tale for Today.” The New York Times, 20 Apr. 2021,

[84] Waxman, Olivia B. “How the U.S. Got Its Police Force.” Time, 18 May 2017,


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