‘You Ain’t No Big Man’: Videos Show Cleveland Police’s Disparate Response to Kids in Crisis

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Police were called to assist an 8-year-old boy with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder in Cleveland in December 2020. When the child struggled against officers, one threatened to strap the child down and added, “You ain’t no big man” (CLEVELAND DIVISION OF POLICE).

By Cid Standifer | The Marshall Project – Cleveland

This story is a joint project of the nonprofit The Marshall Project – Cleveland and Eye on Ohio, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Ohio Center for Journalism. Please join the free mailing lists for Eye on Ohio or The Marshall Project, as this helps provide more public service reporting.

An ambulance was already outside the East Side Cleveland home, its lights flashing, when the police officer arrived one evening in December 2020. According to body camera footage from the incident, the aunt of an 8-year-old with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder said the boy was “acting crazy.” At one point, she said he had climbed out a window onto the house’s roof.

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Family members who lost loved ones to police action speak at community meeting on Consent Decree


By Rich Weiss, for Neighborhood & Community Media Association of Greater Cleveland

The Neighborhood and Community Media Association of Greater Cleveland is providing monthly reports on a series of community conversations about the 2015 Consent Decree negotiated between the US Department of Justice and the City of Cleveland regarding the policies and practices of the Cleveland Police Department.

Four local community members who lost loved ones to Cleveland Police Department (CPD) use-of-force were the Zoom panelists for the June public input meeting on the Cleveland Consent Decree.  United Way of Greater Cleveland and the Cleveland Branch of the NAACP co-sponsored this and five previous public conversations on the Consent Decree and its ramifications for our Cleveland communities.

Background: The Cleveland Consent Decree is a court-enforceable agreement that resulted from an investigation into the CPD by the United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (DOJ).  The DOJ is the agency of the federal government that has the authority to investigate and prosecute alleged violations of citizens’ constitutional rights by the CPD.

After a 21-month investigation, the DOJ found the CPD had engaged in a pattern of excessive force.  The Cleveland Consent Decree was agreed upon by the City of Cleveland and the DOJ to “…repair community trust and protect the constitutional rights of the people of the City of Cleveland.”  The Consent Decree was signed into effect by Judge Solomon Oliver, Jr. and the DOJ on June 12, 2015.  The agreement mandates “…the City will file a status report every six months thereafter while this agreement is in effect.”

The agreement also calls on “the community” of Cleveland to be a part of the reform process by serving on various Consent Decree committees and/or by attending local community meetings such as this to share concerns and real-life experiences from the community, and for the community to make recommendations for policy change. 

Photo of Angelo Miller and son courtesy of Alicia Kirkman

Alicia Kirkman was asked to be a panelist at the June public meeting on the Cleveland Consent Decree because her son, Angelo Miller, died in 2007 in an incident involving CPD use-of-force. 

Kirkman told the Zoom attendees, “Angelo was my everything.  Angelo was 17 years old, and I was still dropping Angelo off at high school and Angelo would still give me a kiss like he was still my 5 year old.  Still that loving, funny Angelo, he brought joy to all of us, to my whole family.  And he had two sons—Angelo was a father and his two sons didn’t get a chance to know their father.  I continue to fight for justice.  I want murder charges against the officer that killed Angelo.  We need charges.  The whole thing—when it comes to settlements and the families being paid—we need cops to be charged with murder.  If we get more charged with murder, they’ll stop killing.  They’ll stop killing.”

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Next Cleveland Consent Decree Community Conversation: 6:00 pm, April 14

By Rich Weiss for Neighborhood & Community Media Association of Greater Cleveland

Have you ever wondered: “How is the dedication to community engagement reflected in the Cleveland Police Department’s current budget?”

Do you have a handle on: “What is the CPRB (Civilian Police Review Board) and what is its function?”

In the moment—when you or a loved one comes face-to-face with Cleveland Police Department policies—will you know: “Are body cameras used by all officers, and what is the protocol for turning body cameras on and off?”

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