There are 19,429 mayors and city managers in the USA who could overnight eliminate 90 percent of the civil rights litigation and citizen complaints of police misconduct if they were trained to manage the approximately 350,000 police officers they supervise. In a nation where the national average for training police is 600 hours – a barber and cosmetologist need 1500 hours – there is no voluntary or mandatory professional police management training for mayors and city managers.
In Ohio where I served four years as East Cleveland’s mayor, and in the nation, mayors are codified as the chief law enforcement officer of the state’s municipal corporations. They appoint and administer oaths of office to police chiefs and officers.
Mayors and safety directors, not police chiefs, write and authorize police department regulations and negotiate collective bargaining agreements. The mayor determines whether or not to equip cops with military surplus and assault rifles; and if SWAT at overtime is needed to serve basic warrants.
What’s also under Ohio law is the mayor’s authority to introduce and write legislation for council to consider and enact.
For mayors who understand that “ordinances” are codified and literal instructions to employees that come with criminal penalties if violated; the ability to punish police violations of law as violations of law and diminish constitutionally-abusive behavior could become a four-week reality over two regular council meetings.
A trained mayor who enters office understanding and using the full scope of authority of the law enforcement office he or she holds is ready on day one to know misuse of the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is a federal crime and not an administrative offense.
After my election as East Cleveland, Ohio’s mayor in November 2005 I attended an orientation the Cuyahoga County Mayors and City Managers Association set up in the office of what was then Squire, Sanders & Dempsey (now Squire, Patton & Boggs). It consisted of public records, public bidding, ethics and some other innocuous bullshit.
I saw nothing on the list of seminars offered by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, the Ohio Municipal League or even the National Conference of Black Mayors that offered guidance to mayors about police management though all the nation’s mayors faced police misconduct and civil rights complaints.
Consider that in states with strong collective bargaining laws the typical mayor doesn’t get involved in the specifics of the police labor agreements they’re required by law to negotiate and manage. Unless they’ve already worked in government the average mayor going in the door has never seen a collective bargaining agreement or the management nuances they can use in it to control overtime, promotions and remove bad employees.
Mayors have no idea, as an example, how U.S. Department of Justice investigations of police departments have clearly affirmed that mayors, safety directors and police chiefs who convert crimes cops commit to administrative offenses are committing crimes. The typical mayor doesn’t know chiefs and safety directors who call crimes “administrative offenses” are criminally concealing them. Getting the mayor’s signature on the disciplinary action only drags the mayor into the federal law violation of the civil rights of the person who was the offending cop’s victim.
The local mayors association meetings didn’t share that my chief of police was going to criminally assign two cops without my knowledge to access the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) and the state’s Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) to secretly investigate me and members of my cabinet. Berea cops did the same thing to my former deputy safety director and his family when he accepted a job as that city’s safety director.
I waited two months after I was administered an oath on January 1, 2006 and assigned my law director to ask the highway patrol to query our names to see which cops had searched them. The surprised look on the chief’s face was worth it when I gave her the name of the two cops and had her bring them to my office.
There are nuances to law enforcement management, supervision and control that mayors are not trained to know and won’t be taught … ever.
Had it not been for my prior appointments as chief of staff and special assistant to the mayors of East Cleveland and Cleveland, and two decades of covering police beats as an editor and publisher, I wouldn’t have already read nearly 20 years of labor agreements, grievances, arbitration rulings, civil rights cases, justice department investigations and citizen complaints before I held office. Shooting pool with and getting to know the late Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes gave me his perspective about the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association and the Fraternal Order of Police in my city.
Civil rights litigation is strangling city budgets. Unchecked police violations of civil rights and criminal laws while enforcing them isn’t just a political problem for mayors; it’s a problem only they can solve with comprehensive training.