Dear Cleveland Heights resident,
Earlier this week, a video was posted on YouTube featuring edited clips of police body camera footage from a September 22, 2022, traffic stop that led to a complaint against a Cleveland Heights police officer.
Like many of you, I first became aware of this incident as a result of this video. Due to policies adopted under our previous form of government, it has been the practice of the Cleveland Heights Division of Police to internally investigate and resolve complaints about police conduct without notifying the City Manager/Mayor.
I want to share with you what I have subsequently learned, what I think it means, and what we are doing about it.
During this traffic stop, the interaction between a motorist, Mr. Demetrius Kern, Officer Lewis, and Sergeant Wolf resulted in Mr. Kern eventually being handcuffed and cited for obstruction of official business. This charge was dismissed eleven days later at the request of the City Prosecutor.
A few hours following the traffic stop, Mr. Kern came to Cleveland Heights City Hall and filed a complaint against Sergeant Wolf. Cleveland Heights Police Chief Chris Britton investigated Mr. Kern's complaint and ordered Sergeant Wolf to attend a de-escalation training session.
I have spent the last four days reviewing the unedited body camera footage (which you can view here) and documentation related to this incident. I will complete my administrative review and release my determinations shortly.
I believe, however, that this situation clearly demonstrates that existing policy in Cleveland Heights is insufficient for a government with an elected Mayor and illuminates why these policies must change. Executive oversight of the Division of Police must become the standard in Cleveland Heights.
I have already begun work to change how Cleveland Heights handles complaints about police conduct. During last year's city budget process, I announced I would create a new Bureau of Professional Standards within the Cleveland Heights Division of Police to formalize internal controls and accountability. I will appoint the first Captain for this bureau next month.
In consultation with City Administrator Sinnott, Chief Britton, and the Captain of this new bureau, I will update our policies and procedures for receiving, investigating, resolving, and reporting complaints related to police conduct.
In Cleveland Heights, our Division of Police has earned a reputation over the years for being dedicated to a cooperative and productive relationship with residents and visitors to our city. Our continuing work toward systemic improvement will help to maintain and strengthen this relationship with the community.