Cleveland to spend millions upgrading police department technology under equipment plan

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A monitor tracking the city of Cleveland’s progress under a consent decree has given the OK to a plan to upgrade the police department’s technology.

The plan focuses on the ways the city will ensure that the police department keeps up to date with its technology and equipment. It sets up an IT strategy to ensure equipment is upgraded and maintained, and seeks to hold employees accountable for doing so.

The plan calls for the city to spend more than $27.3 million on infrastructure upgrades between 2018 and 2023, and nearly $2.6 million annually to operate and maintain the equipment and software. Greg White, the city’s consent decree coordinator, said this plan includes rolling out new computers to be used in all the police districts and headquarters.

Police monitor Matthew Barge wrote in a court filing last week that the new plan met the requirements the city agreed to under a consent decree it reached with the Justice Department in 2015. Barge asked U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver Jr. to approve the new plan.

The equipment and resource plan, a key portion of the consent decree, is a long time in the making. It emerged out of the Justice Department’s finding that police officers were too often using outdated equipment and police cars, and were forced to perform tasks as simple as filling out reports by hand instead of using computers.

The plan, at least as it pertains to patrol officers, is meant to give the city a roadmap to allow officers to spend more time on the street. As with many portions of the consent decree, though, it took a few tries for the city to complete it.

The city first submitted an equipment and resource plan in 2016, but Barge and his team rejected it for being overly vague and not outlining the police department’s specific needs. The original version of the plan also did not provide deadlines for addressing those needs, and Barge noted that Cleveland’s equipment was decades behind police departments in other major cities.

City officials revised the plan, and the monitoring team approved a portion of a new plan in 2017. The revisions related to upgrading the department’s computer-aided dispatch system and buying new patrol cars; the city has worked over the last year to address those two needs.

Upgrading the police department’s equipment is one of the most costly components of the consent decree, as the city has committed to spending millions of dollars over several years to upgrade its technology.

Even so, Mayor Frank Jackson has sometimes been reticent to directly tie upgrades to its police cruisers and other equipment to the consent decree. When Jackson announced in 2017 that the city had purchased of dozens of new patrol cars, he said the purchase were not directly related to the consent decree but still met the goals of the reform agreement.

View/search document collection