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Dunn Report on Cleveland Police Review Board Citizen Complaints

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The Cleveland Police Review Board: An Examination of Citizen Complaints
and Complainants' Experience with the Citizen Complaint Process
Ronnie A. Dunn, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Dept. of Urban Studies
Cleveland State University
2121 Euclid Avenue, Rm. 314
Cleveland, Ohio 44115-2214

1

A Brief History of Civilian Oversight
Efforts to achieve greater police accountability through civilian oversight of
police initially evolved out of the social and racial tensions in America following World
War II with the advent of the modem civil rights movement. As the second wave of the
Great Black Migration neared its end, millions of blacks had migrated from the rural
South to cities throughout the country, particularly in the Northeast and the Midwest, in
search of greater economic opportunities and social equality. Many of these black
migrants soon found themselves segregated to the harsh living conditions of the ghetto.
These black ghettoes were characterized by rundown housing, inadequate schools, high
unemployment rates, poor health care, and high crime rates. Black frustration and rage,
further exacerbated by indiscriminate police bias and brutality and racial tensions,
ultimately erupted in riots. Racial uprisings broke out in hundreds of cities and towns
throughout the nation during the mid- to late-l 960s, including in the major cities of Los
Angeles in 1965, Chicago in 1966, Newark and Detroit in 1967, Washington D.C. in
1968, and in Cleveland in 1966 and again in 1968.
President Lyndon B. Johnson convened The National Advisory Commission on
Civil Disorders in 1967 to identify and analyze the root causes of the riots and the
deteriorating racial climate in the nation and to make recommendations to address them.
The Kerner Commission's findings issued in 1968 included the ominous warning, "Our
nation is moving toward two societies; one black, one white - separate and unequal," and
concluded that the riots were the result of blacks' profound dissatisfaction with an
American society in which racism was found to be "deeply embedded," (Report of The
National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, 1968). The Kerner Commission

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Report cited the austere living conditions within America's black ghettoes, which led to a
number of riots in cities throughout the country in the summer of 1966. As the Kerner
Commission reported, many of these riots stemmed from incidents between African
American citizens and the police and involved charges of excessive use of force or abuse
of authority by police. According to Wintersmith (1974, p. 44), "virtually every urban
rebellion that took place during the sixties was immediately preceded by police-blackcitizen confrontations." Walker (2005, p.23) reinforces this point when he states that
"virtually all of the urban riots of the 1964-1968 period were sparked by an incident
involving the police." This point was explicitly expressed in the words of the black
nationalist leader at the center of a shootout with the police in Cleveland in 1968 that
sparked a riot in the city's predominately black Glenville neighborhood, who when asked
the reason for the shootings upon his arrest stated, "You police have bothered us too
long," (Moore, 2002, p. 87).
Such conditions, coupled with the growing political power that accrued to blacks
and other minorities as a result of their concentration within the nation's central cities, led
to the civilian oversight and police accountability movement, which has spread
throughout the country since the late-1960s. Civilian oversight mechanisms are just one
of the latest in a number of attempts to reform American policing, which date back to the
efforts of reformers such as O.W. Wilson and August Vollemer in the early 20th Century
(Skolnick & Fyfe, 1993). Vollemer attempted to professionalize policing by recruiting
officers of higher educational backgrounds and increasing the educational requirements
to become a police officer, instituting standardized entrance examinations, implementing
enhanced police training, and utilizing scientific technology in the investigation of crime.

3

These efforts along with those of other Progressive-era reformers and blue ribbon
commissions which were convened to investigate corruption in a number of big city
police departments, sought to transform policing from the corrupt, abusive tools of
political bosses, which had come to characterize police departments in many major cities
throughout America (Berger, Free, & Searles, 2001).
Calls for reform and greater police accountability have resulted in an increase in
departments across the country that has turned to community policing and citizen review
mechanisms to address such concerns. Walker (2001, p. 5) defines citizen oversight as "a
procedure for providing input into the complaint process by individuals who are not
sworn officers." As of2002, there were an estimated 100 individual oversight agencies
found throughout the nation, approximately 80 % of which are found in large cities
(Livingston, 2002). In spite of the growth and popularity of citizen oversight entities,
according to Walker, "neither the law enforcement profession nor the new citizen
oversight professional community have developed a set of professional standards for
complaint procedures (2005, p. 74). And a review of the literature on civilian oversight
of police departments suggests that the results of studies on the effectiveness of such
mechanisms have been mixed. In his recent book on preventive policing, David Harris
(2005) reports that civilian oversight systems "have a mixed record nationally... some
have performed well, others have failed utterly, still others have hobbled along for years
without being of much use to anyone.
While there is not a set of professional standards governing citizen complaint
procedures and the results of studies on the effectiveness of civilian oversight
mechanisms vary, scholars emphasize the need for civilian review agencies to collect,

4

analyze, and publish the results of citizen complaint data regularly in order to build the
public's trust in the police and to enhance police-community relations, particularly within
communities of color (Harris, M., 2001). However, as Liederbach, Boyd, Taylor, and
Kawhucha (2007) note, research on police complaint investigations lack systematic data
because of the confidentiality surrounding complaint investigations and the resistance of
police to make this information open to public scrutiny. This opposition to examination
by those from outside of law enforcement is also due in part to the deeply ingrained belief
within policing noted by Terrill "that only police understand the complex law
enforcement task" (as cited by Bartels and Silverman, 2005) and thus suggests that only
those within law enforcement or with an enforcement background should stand in
judgment of another enforcement officer or agency (Greene, 2007).
Despite this resistance on the part of police to welcome the research of academics
and scrutiny of others outside of the profession, particularly as it relates to civilian
oversight of police and specific aspects of police work, there is a growing receptiveness
to accountability within policing. As noted by Stone (2007), whereas the civilian
oversight and police accountability movement of the 60s evolved from the social
demands of those primarily on the left of the political spectrum, this newfound
receptiveness to accountability within policing stems from its use as a tool by police
administrators to ensure the efficient and effective expenditure of public resources, and
its proponents include those from the right of the political continuum. Stone attributes
this new embrace of accountability within policing to the use of COMPSTAT by the New
York Police Department in the mid-90s, which coincided with a significant decrease in
crime in New York City. This embrace of accountability within policing by "law and

5

order" advocates from the right was exemplified in a speech given by "America's
Mayor," former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2006 to the Indian Police
Service in Mumbai, in which he invoked his host to 'build the police department around
accountability' (Stone, 2007).
Within the concept of "accountability" exists the potential for advocates from
both ends of the political spectrum to find common ground. The recent focus on
accountability is part ofthe performance measurement movement, which has become
institutionalized in governance. Public officials increasingly utilize performance data to
make important, empirically-based decisions regarding public resources (Brunet, 2006).
Law enforcement administrators, like many public sector managers, have traditionally
been primarily concerned with performance measurement relative to evaluating their
agencies to ensure they are operating in an effective and cost-efficient manner. The
recent trend in the use of computerized performance management tools such as
COMPSTAT to more efficiently track and fight crime is consistent with this tradition.
Social equity is also a strategic goal that many public organizations and
administrators, including those in law enforcement, are now embracing and striving to
achieve in the delivery of public services (Brunet, 2006; Dunn 2009). Inherent within the
concept of social equity are the constitutional principles of fairness, justice, and equal
treatment (i.e. protection) under the law. Walker (2005) refers to this convergence of the
traditionally competing alternatives of external and internal accountability mechanisms
within law enforcement as a "mixed system" of accountability.

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Research Questions
The primary objective of an external civilian oversight mechanism, such as a
police review board, is to provide public accountability in the citizen complaint process,
by making the investigation of complaints of police misconduct, and incidents involving
the excessive and/or deadly-use-of force by police, transparent and open to the public.
As Greene (2007) states, "oversight of the police must be accessible and transparent to
the public and the police, and must be conducted independently from the police" (p. 748).
Oliver defines "transparency" as "a principle that allows those affected by administrative
decisions ... to know not only the basic facts and figures but the mechanisms and
processes," and adds "It is the duty of civil servants, managers and trustees to act visibly,
predictably and understandably," (2004, p. 5).
Walker (2005) identifies three operating principles of an effective citizen
complaint procedure: openness, integrity, and accountability. Openness, according to
Walker, "means that at the point of intake all complaints should be received, reserving for
later determination about the merits of particular complaints" (2001, p. 188). He refers to
integrity as the unbiased and thorough manner in which complaint procedures are to be
conducted. And he states that, in order for a complaint procedure to provide
accountability to the public and responsible public officials internal procedures designed
to insure integrity must be developed and maintained and be subjected to regular audit by
outside investigators (Walker, 2001, p. 188).
Cleveland established a citizen review board in 1984. There were only 20 citizen
oversight bodies in the U.S. as of 1985 (Walker, 2001; Livingston, 2002; Angelis and
Kupchik, 2007), making Cleveland's citizen review board one of the longest standing

7

contemporary civilian oversight agencies in the country.

Despite this fact, to-date a

comprehensive and systematic review and analysis of its Police Review Board's records
and data compiled over its 25-year history has not been conducted. This research is the
first to examine the citizen complaints filed against officers in this large urban police
department.
This research is designed to examine the extent to which the Cleveland Police
Review Board is effective in providing public oversight of the police and police
accountability. In order to do this, this study uses the citizen complaint files of this
external oversight agency and a survey of former complainants to answer the following
questions: Who are the citizens that file complaints against the police? What are the most
frequent types of citizen complaints filed against officers in this department and what
happens to these complaints? How do citizens feel about the complaint process and
would they use the system again in the future should the need arise?

Cleveland and Its Civilian Review Board
Cleveland established a Civilian Review Board through a special election held in
1984. An emergency ordinance was introduced by the mayor (a current Republican U.S.
Senator) and the city council president (a Democrat and the current president of the local
chapter of the NAACP), for the distinct purpose of "the immediate preservation of the
public peace, property, health, and safety" (Cleveland Charter, 1984). As implied by the
language in the legislation, it was enacted against the backdrop of historical tensions
which existed between the city's police force and its African American community,
which had grown from 16 % of the city's population in 1950 to 44 % in 1980 to 54 % of
the population currently.

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Cleveland is the second largest city in the state of Ohio with a population of
478,000 (2000 U.S. Census) and is the center of the state's largest metropolitan area. The
city is one of the oldest major cities in the U.S. As is characteristic of other large
Rustbelt cities in the nation's heartland, Cleveland has experienced significant decline to
its once strong industrial-manufacturing based economy and has witnessed significant
depopulation as its population has fallen from nearly 1 million residents in the 1950s to
less than half of that today. The city has the largest black population in the state and is the
third most racially segregated city in the country with blacks primarily concentrated on
the city's Eastside, whites concentrated on the city's Westside, and a growing Hispanic
community concentrated on the lower Westside (Salling, 2001). Sixty percent of the
city's residents live in neighborhoods in which 90 % or more ofthe residents are of the
same race (Smith & Davis, 2002). And the city has been rated as one of the most
impoverished big cities (population above 250,000) in the country several times over the
past five years.
As of2008 there were 1,654 sworn officers in the Cleveland Police Department,
64 % of who were white, 27 % black, 8 % Hispanic, and 0.09 % of some other
race/ethnicity. The police department's command staff, which is comprised of the chief,
four deputy chiefs, and eleven commanders, includes one black male and one Hispanic
male as deputy chiefs, and five black males and one white female commander. The
remainder of the command staffis comprised of white males. The department has had
two African-American chiefs of police in its history; a male in 1994 and a female in
2001. In spite of efforts to bring the minority representation within the department in line
with the demographics of the city, there is still a considerable imbalance between the

9

internal racial demographics of the Cleveland Police Department (36 % minority) and the
external demographics of the city (58.5 % minority).

Structure and Authority of the Police Review Board
1

The powers and duties of the five-member Police Review Board appointed by
the mayor and approved by the city council as stated in the City Charter are to:
... receive, cause investigation of, and recommend
resolution of complaints filed with it alleging misconduct
by members of the Cleveland police force, which such
misconduct is directed toward any person who is not a
member of that police force. The misconduct complained
of may include, but need not be limited to, the use of
excessive or deadly force ....On its own complaint, the
Board may cause investigation of incidents resulting in the
injury or death of persons in the custody of the police force.
The emergency ordinance also established an Office of Professional Standards
(OPS), which is charged with carrying out the administrative functions of the Board and
investigating the citizen complaints that it receives. The OPS is staffed by a civilian
administrator appointed by the city safety director and sworn officers from within the
police department, excluding the chief and deputy chiefs of police (Cleveland Charter,
1984). There were four sworn officers assigned to the OPS as investigators at the time of
this study giving the agency an investigator-to-officer ratio of 1:413 (Walker, 2005).2 If
the findings of a complaint investigation are sustained by the Board, it makes its
recommendation of disciplinary actions to the chief of police.

I At the inception of this study the Police Review Board was comprised of one white male and female, one
Hispanic male, and two African-American males, one being the board chairman and a retired FBI agent. A
referendum was passed in 2008 increasing the size of the Police Review Board from five to seven
members. The race/ethnicity of the new members is not known at this time neither are the occupational
backgrounds of the other board members.
2 According to the chairman of the Police Review Board (personal communication, 2007) and consistent
with the literature on oversight agency's investigator staffing standards (Walker, 2005), there are no written
standards specifying the number of investigators that are to be assigned to the Office of Professional
Standards.

10

This external oversight agency is "structurally independent," in that it is separate
from the police department whose officers it is charged with investigating complaints
against (Walker, 2001). However, using Walker's four models of citizen oversight to
assess independence, the Cleveland Police Review Board is classified as a Class II
system, in that it has "some citizen input but the citizens are dependent upon the
investigations done by the police," (2001, p. 62).3 Therefore, although the PRB is an
external oversight agency, structurally independent of the police department, its
independence is mitigated internally as the Board is dependent on investigations
conducted by sworn police officers (Walker, 2001).

Methodology
This study used quantitative data obtained from two sources to examine the
citizen complaint and Police Review Board processes of the Cleveland Police
Department. A database was acquired from the Office of Professional Standards (OPS),
which receives and investigates complaints filed against Cleveland Police officers for the
Police Review Board. This database contained 4,349 citizen complaints filed between
2000 and 2007. 4 The variables used in this study to examine the complaint files in the

Class I systems are the most independent bodies in that the investigations are conducted by non-sworn
personnel, whereas Class III systems are the least independent type of oversight entity given that the citizen
review board only becomes involved if a complainant is not satisfied with their ruling and files an appeal.
The citizen review board may then refer the complaint back to the police department for further
investigation if they disagree with the complaint's disposition or some aspect of the investigation. Class IV
systems are the auditor model of oversight which does not investigate individual complaints, but are
authorized to review, monitor, or audit the police department's complaint process (Walker, 2001).
4 The variables in the complaint database included: an OPS case number, the complainant's name, gender,
race, and address, the police district in which the incident occurred, the complaint intake date, the
complaint interview and transcription date, the date the case was assigned to an OPS investigator, a
summary of the allegation or charge in the complaint, a priority number, whether the complaint was
completed or dropped and if so, the reason for non-completion, the date the complaint was reviewed by the
PRE, the case's final disposition, and whether disciplinary actions were recommended in the case.
3

11

database were race, gender, the complaint summary, and whether the PRB recommended
disciplinary actions be taken by the chief of police.
In addition, a 27-item survey instrument was developed and administered to
gather information on complainants' experience with filing a citizen complaint and the
Police Review Board process. The survey also collected demographic and socioeconomic
data on the complainants, including gender, race/ethnicity, age, occupational status,
educational level, and household income. The survey sample consisted of 1,189
complainants for whom a mailing address and a final disposition of the complaint was
recorded in the OPS database. The other cases were excluded due to the lack of adequate
information to allow follow-up.
Surveys were mailed to the 1,189 complainants along with a self-addressed,
postage paid envelope. Two months after the initial survey was administered a second
survey was mailed to non-respondents of the first mailing to generate a more complete
response. Three hundred forty-six surveys were returned marked "non-deliverable," and
a total of 163 completed survey responses were received. Assuming the surveys not
returned marked "non-deliverable" were mailed to valid addresses the completed surveys
received represent a response rate of 19.3 % of the 843 surveys mailed with a valid
address.
This study's response rate is considerable in comparison to the response rates and
sample sizes of similar studies of citizen complaints and external oversight systems that
used surveys. Bartels and Silverman's (2005) study of the New York City CCRB had a
response rate of 18 % (N=285) however, it surveyed both complainants and police
officers while the current study surveyed only complainants. And even though Sviridoof

12

and McElroy's (1989) study of the New York City CCRB had a response rate of35 %
(N=371), that study used a survey administered by telephone. While Seron et al. report a
"cooperation rate" (2004, p. 638) between 62.5% and 58.4% in their survey of New York
City residents' perceptions of police misconduct they also computed a traditional
response rate of 17.5% based on the total number of completed calls and the total number
of valid telephone numbers. 5 Additionally, while Waters and Brown's (2000) survey of
complainants against police in the United Kingdom yielded a 26 % response rate, it had a
sample size of only 51 respondents. In light of these results and Walker's contention
that, "almost all attempts to survey complainants ...have encountered the problem of very
low response rates" (2005), this study's 19.3% response rate and sample size are
generous for this type of study.
Data

Complaint Incident Summary
There were a number of data entry and management problems found in the
database obtained from the Office of Professional Standards, including significant
spelling errors and the inconsistent use of variable labels to categorize and summarize
incidents in the complaints, which made it difficult to sort and analyze the data. The data
had to be cleaned (corrected) for errors and uniformly categorized before it could be
efficiently and accurately sorted and analyzed statistically. The complaint incident
summaries were grouped into seven main categories: Demeanor, Harassment (including
sexual), Improper Procedure (which included improper arrest, improper search, and
improper tow), Physical Abuse, Verbal Abuse (including use of racial epithets and threats

5 As noted by Seron et al. (2004) in studies using telephone surveys it is customary to report a cooperation
rate rather than a response rate.

13

of deadly-use-of force) and complaints broadly defined as related to Service and Property
offenses (including missing and damaged property). By incident type 35.8 % of the
complaints (1,561) were categorized as Improper Procedure, 22.9 % (996) were Physical

Abuse complaints, 19.3 % (864) were for Demeanor, 6.3 % (278) were Harassment
complaints, 3.3 % (144) were Verbal Abuse complaints, 6.1 % (266) were Service
complaints, and 2.6 % (114) were Property related complaints. There was also one
charge each of rape and robbery along with two allegations of bribery which were
categorized as Other Serious Crimes (see Table 1). These cases were turned over to
Internal Affairs (IA) by OPS for investigation. The incident summary data was blank on
75 complaint files.

Table 1: Complaints by Category
Type of Complaint
Improper Procedure
Physical Abuse
Demeanor
Harassment
Verbal Abuse
Service
Property
Uniform Traffic Ticket
Other serious crimes
No Complaint/To Be Determined
Blank Incident Summary Data
Total

N

Percenta~e

1561
996
864
278
144
266
114
29
4
18
75
4349

35.8
22.9
19.8
6.3
3.3
6.1
2.6
0.6
0.09
0.4
1.7

100

The Police Review Board made a recommendation in less than half (2, 125) of all the
complaints in the database (N=4,349). Two hundred and seven (9.7%) of the cases in
which a recommendation was made were Sustained by the PRB while 610 (28.7%) were

Unfounded. Another 692 cases (32.5%) were Administratively Withdrawn, 148 cases
(6.9%) were Voluntarily Withdrawn, 332 (15.6%) were closed due to Insufficient

14

Evidence, 74 were out of the department's jurisdiction, 45 cases were transferred to other
units such as the CIU (Criminal Investigation Unit), the Prosecutor's Office, or lA, 12
cases were on hold, and two were heard in public hearings.
The data indicated that disciplinary actions were recommended or taken in 81
(39.1%) of the sustained cases or 1.8 % of all cases. Improper Procedure complaints
were the majority of the cases in which disciplinary actions were recommended, followed
by Physical Abuse, Demeanor, Service, and Harassment complaints (Table 2).
Information regarding the nature of the disciplinary action recommended to the chief and
whether these actions were carried out was very limited in the database records.
Table 2: Disciplinary Actions in Sustained Complaints
Recommended Disciplinary Action
Total
Improper Procedure
Physical Abuse
Demeanor
Service
Harassment

N
81

33
21
16
7

2

Percenta2e

100
40.7
25.9
19.7
8.6

2.4

Complainant Survey Demographics
Race data was missing on more than half (7 13) of the 1,189 cases in the
complainant survey database. Gender was missing on 14 (1.2 %) of the cases in the
database. Of the 476 cases with race noted, blacks were 64.7 % (308) of the
complainants, whites were 26.8 % (128), Hispanics were 7.4 % (35) and Arabs made up
0.8 % (4). Examining the data by race/gender cohort, black men were the largest cohort
within the sample (169), followed by black women (139), white men (76), white women
(52), Hispanic men (20), Hispanic women (15) and Arab men (4). There were no Arab
women complainants in the sample (see Table 3).

15

Table 3: Complainants by Race
Complainant Sample
Percentage of
Percentage of all
cases with race
cases
40.3
100
40.3
-64.7
25.9
26.8
10.7
3
7.4
0.3
0.8
0
59.9

Race
N
Total
Race Noted
Black
White
Hispanic
Arab

Missing Race

1189
476
308
128
35
4
714

*There were no complamants recorded as NatIve Amencan or ASian m the CPO complamt database.

Survey Respondent Demographics
Cross-tabulations of survey demographic data on race, gender, and age with data
on respondents and non-respondents revealed that race had a significant effect on whether
a survey was returned or not. 6 Race negatively influenced whether blacks and to a lesser
degree, Hispanics responded to the survey. Among blacks there was a 13-percentage
point difference between non-respondents and respondents (67.9 - 54.8 %), and a 6percentage point difference between Hispanics that returned the survey and those that did
not (8 - 1.9 %). Race had a positive influence on whites' survey completion rate as
reflected in the 17.3-percentage point difference between respondents and nonrespondents (40.6 - 23.3 %). Race did not influence the survey completion rate of the
other racial/ethnic groups in the study (Arabs and Native Americans).
Women were 52.1 % of the complainant survey respondents, while men were
42.9 % of the respondents and black women represented the largest race/gender cohort
(28.2 %) among survey respondents (see Table 4). Gender did not have an effect on
whether a survey was returned or not. 7

The effect of race on response rate:x2 = 22.440,p< .05 (df= 4,N =417)
2
7 The effect of gender on response rate: x = 1.484,p < .05 (df=l, N= 830)

6

16

Table 4: Demographic Data for Survey Respondents
N= 163

GENDER
Female
Male

52.1 %
42.9%

RACE

Black

White

Hispanic

Arab

52.1%
28.2 %
23.9%

37.9%
20.8%
17.1 %

1.8 %
1.2 %
0.6%

1.2 %
1.2 %
0%

Total
Female
Male

Native America
1.8 %

0.6%
1.2 %

AGE
16-24yrs

6.1 %

25-34yrs

12.9 %

35-44yrs

27.6 %

45-54yrs

26.4 %

55-64yrs

13.5 %

65-74yrs

8.6 %

75 yrs & Above

1.2 %

EDUCATION
Less than HS

HS Grad/GED

3.9 %

Vocational Sch.

19.6 %

Some College/No Degree

Post Graduate

14.3 %

21.5 %

26.4%

6.5%

Bachelor Degree

OCCUPATIONAL STATUS
Employed FT

Employed PT

50 %

0%

Others

10.4 %

Student

7.8 %

Stay-at-Home Parents

Unemployed

3.9 %

3.9%

Retired

13.6 %

INCOME
<$20K

18 %

$20 - 34.9K

19 %

$35-49.9K

15.6 %

$50-74.9K

18 %

$75-99.9K

8.4%

* Total percentages may not equal 100 % due to missing data.

17

$100 - 149.9K

7.8%

$150K

1.9%

Age did have a significant effect on survey response.

8

The mean age of survey

respondents was 41.4 years of age while the average age of non-respondents was 36.5
years of age, reflecting a mean difference of 4.88 years. Persons between the ages of 35 44 years old were the largest age group of respondents at 27.6 % (see Table 4).
Examining education, occupation, and income, 26.4 % of the respondents had some
college but less than a bachelor's degree, 50 % of the respondents were employed fulltime, and 21.5 % of the survey respondents reported having an annual household income
of less than $20,000 9 (see Table 4).
While the demographic background of complainants that responded to the survey
reflect a broad racial/ethnic and socioeconomic cross-section of the city's population,
based on the survey demographic data the typical characteristics of a person that filed a
complaint against a member of the Cleveland Department and completed this survey is a
middle-aged, black woman with some college education but less than a bachelor's
degree, that worked full-time, and earned less than $20,000 a year.

Survey Findings
In addition to the demographic data captured on the survey, the survey instrument
examined four general realms of the citizen complaint process; The Complaint Intake

Process, The Complaint Investigation Process, The Overall Experience with the Citizen
Complaint Process, and The Complainant's Objectives in filing a complaint. The survey
findings are presented within each domain and Walker's basic operating principles for

xThe effect of age on response rate: x 2 = 90.143, p < .05 (df= 61, N = 699).
9 Although the median household income for Cleveland was $26,535 in 2006, more than 9 % of the survey respondents reported household
incomes above $100,000.

18

citizen complaint procedures; Openness, Integrity, and Accountability (2001; 2005) are
used to analyze each respectively. 10

The Complaint Intake Process
The first eight survey questions examined issues related to complainant's
experience in the intake process of filing a complaint with the Office of Professional
Standards. The majority of survey respondents (59 %) reported that they were able to file
a complaint against a member of the Cleveland Police without much difficulty while 29

% reported having some difficulty. Similarly, 55 % of the respondents thought the
location where they filed their complaint was easy to reach from their home or job
compared to 20 % that thought it was difficult to reach.
Almost half (49 %) of the respondents felt that the person taking their complaint
treated their complaint as credible while almost a third (32 %) reported the contrary, and
54 % of respondents viewed the intake person as helpful compared to 24 % that thought
otherwise. Sixteen percent of the respondents felt that the intake person tried to
discourage them from filing a complaint while 67 % did not feel such pressure. Over half
of the complainants (54 %) reported having the complaint process explained to them by
the intake person while 31 % reported not receiving such an explanation. Conversely, 49
% of respondents stated that they were not informed of the amount of time it would take
to investigate their complaint compared to 28 % that reported receiving this information.
Similarly, 53 % said the approximate length of time it would take to receive a response to
their complaint was not explained to them while 25 % reported receiving such
information.

10

See the Appendix for a complete table of survey responses.

19

Using Walker's operating principle of Openness to assess the responses to
questions related to the intake process collectively indicates that the citizen complaint
intake process administered by the Cleveland Office of Professional Standards is
perceived as being relatively open by the former complainants. The majority of the
respondents responded positively to all except two of the questions pertaining to the
customer service they received during the intake process and their ability to file a
complaint without much difficulty or being dissuaded from doing so by the person
handling intake at the OPS.
The Investigation Process

Looking at the investigation process itself, an overwhelming majority (83 %) of
the complainants did not feel that their complaint was thoroughly investigated compared
to only 10 % that did. Sixty-four percent of respondents did not feel their complaint was
handled in a bias-free manner while only 16 % felt the contrary. Similar to the
percentage found regarding the thorough investigation of their complaint, 83 % of
respondents reported not being kept informed of the status of their complaint during the
process while 10 % reported the opposite. 1I Only 11 % of the complaints felt their
complaint was resolved in a timely manner while 74 % felt otherwise.
Examining data related to the disposition of complaints examined by the Police
Review Board as a separate component of the citizen complaint process from the OPS' s
investigation, again the vast majority (81 %) of respondents did not believe their case had
been thoroughly reviewed by the Police Review Board compared to a mere 6 % that did.
Eighty-five percent of respondents reported being dissatisfied with the review board's
11 1t should be noted, a considerable number of complainants reported not having received information regarding the
final disposition or outcome of their complaint. This information was reported verbally through follow-up interviews
conducted with a sample of20 respondents that provided contact infonnation on their returned survey and it was
hand-written on the survey instrument by other respondents.

20

ruling on their complaint compared to only 8 % that reported being satisfied with their
ruling and 7 % that were neutral on this question. Asked differently, 88 % of
complainants reported being dissatisfied with the final judgment regarding their
complaint while only 6 % reported the contrary. When asked if they thought the process
was fair, in spite of the outcome of their complaint a mere 11 % responded in the
affirmative while 78 % responded in the contrary.
Utilizing Walker's principle of Integrity to examine the responses to questions
related to the investigative aspects of the citizen complaint process (see survey items 916 in the Appendix), the respondents overwhelmingly felt that the investigation process
was not thorough and unbiased. None of the eight survey items related to the
investigation of citizen's complaints received more than a 15 % positive response rate.
From the perspective of the survey respondents' both the OPS's investigation of citizens'
complaints and the Police Review Board's disposition of the complaints, lacked integrity.

Overall Experience with the Citizen Complaint Process
Analyzing the survey responses to items (number 18 - 21) related to the
complainants' overall experience and perception of filing a complaint against a member
of the Cleveland Police Department reveals that the majority of the respondents viewed
their experience negatively. Sixty-one percent of the respondents did not feel that the
complaint process gave them a full opportunity to present their complaint compared to 24
% that felt the process afforded them a full opportunity to express themselves. Not
surprisingly, a mere 14 % of the respondents felt that their experience with the citizen
complaint process had strengthened their view that the police are held accountable for
their behavior. An overwhelming 74 % majority of the complainants reported that their
experience had not strengthened their view that police are held accountable for their
21

actions. Similarly, 68 % viewed the Police Review Board as an ineffective means of
handling citizens' complaints against police whereas 12 % felt that it was effective in this
regard.
The survey responses to the questions related to the respondents' overall
experience with the Cleveland citizen complaint process (items 17 - 20) were also
overwhelmingly negative. Employing Walker's principle of Accountability to gauge
respondents' perception of the citizen complaint process and Police Review Board based
on their experience, the majority do not believe that the system holds police accountable
for their actions or misconduct.

Willingness to File a Complaint Again
Surprisingly, in spite of their overall dissatisfaction with their experience with the
citizen complaint process and the Police Review Board, a majority of respondents (44 %)
stated that they would go through the complaint process again if they had a need to file a
complaint against a Cleveland Police officer in the future compared to those who said
they would not (42 %). These findings are also consistent with those found in a number
of other studies on citizen complaints and police oversight (Waters & Brown, 2000;
Sviridoff & McElroy, 1989).
Exploring this finding, regression analyses revealed that a complaint's willingness
to use the complaint system again in the future is related to their level of satisfaction with
the Police Review Board's ruling on their complaint (b

=

.477,p < .000), their

satisfaction with the final judgment in their case (b = ,493,p < .001), and to whether their
belief that police are held accountable for their behavior was strengthened by their
experience with the complaint process (b

=

.511, p < .000). However, although the

relationship between these variables and the willingness to use the complaint system
22

again are statistically significant, they only explain 16 % of the variation in respondents'
willingness to file a complaint again in the future.
Demographic characteristics were also examined to further explore this
phenomenon, but race was the only variable found to have a significant influence on
complainants' willingness to file a complaint again in the future. Race had a positive
effect on blacks' willingness to use the complaint system again in the future while it had
a negative effect on whites' and other minorities' willingness to go through the complaint
process again. 12 Fifty-one percent of blacks reported they would file a complaint again in
the future compared to 34 % that stated they would not. Less than a third of whites (32
%) said they would use the citizen complaint system again to file a complaint against an
officer should the need arise in the future while 57 % stated they would not. An equal
percentage (37.5 %) of 'other' minorities were as likely to use the system in the future to
file a complaint as were undecided whether they would go through the citizen complaint
process again while 25 % stated they would not go through the process again should the
need arise.

Complainant's Objectives
The survey also captured data regarding the respondents' objectives in filing a
complaint or their desired outcome from the complaint. The most cited objective for
filing a complaint was to have the officer reprimanded as reported by 24 % of
respondents while 15 % sought to have the officer counseled regarding their offense. A
smaller fraction of complainants sought more punitive objectives as 11 % wanted the
officer fired, and another 11 % wanted the officer suspended. Seven percent of the

2
12 The effect of race on willingness to file a complaint against police in the future: x = 11.106, p. < .025
(df=4, N=150).

23

respondents would have been satisfied with an apology from the officer.

13

More than

twice as many complainants (46 %) sought moderate objectives such as an apology, a
reprimand, or counseling than those that sought more severe penalties for officers (22 %)
such as suspension or termination. These findings parallel the findings in other studies
on civilian oversight of police (Sviridoff & McElroy, 1989; Waters & Brown, 2000;
Walker, 2001).

Summary, Discussion, Recommendations, & Conclusion
The weight of the evidence in this analysis of the Cleveland Police Review Board,
which is the first comprehensive examination of its citizen complaint files and procedures
in the agency's 25-year history, indicates that the citizen complaint process and Police
Review Board for the city of Cleveland is not operating at its highest potential level of
efficiency and effectiveness in providing public oversight and police accountability. The
former complainants surveyed in this study held overwhelmingly negative views of their
experience with the citizen complaint and Police Review Board processes. Only one of
the four dimensions of the citizen complaint process examined was rated positively by a
majority of the survey respondents; the complaint intake process, which was considered
to be relatively open. The majority of respondents did not view the investigation process,
which includes the interviewing of the complainant, the police officer(s) involved, and
any witnesses, along with the collection and examination of all relevant evidence, or the
Police Review Board's examination of the evidence, as being thorough and unbiased.
Surprisingly, despite the survey respondents overwhelmingly negative view of
their overall experience with the citizen complaint/Police Review Board process and their
doubt that the police are held accountable for their actions, a slight majority (44%) of the
13 The remaining 27 % of respondents cited a combination of objectives in filing a complaint. Data was
missing for item on 5 % of

24

fonner complainants, particularly blacks, were willing to use the system again in the
future to file a complaint against a police officer should the need arise in comparison to
those that were discouraged from going through the process again as a result of their
experience (42%). Also of particular interest is the fact that the majority of the fonner
complainants sought relatively moderate objectives from their complaint such as a
reprimand or counseling for the officer rather than more punitive sanctions like
suspension or tennination although Physical Abuse complaints, which are generally
related to the unnecessary use-of-force (including deadly force) and are viewed by the
public as the most egregious fonn of police misconduct (Seron et aI., 2004), were the
second most prevalent type of complaint found in the database (22.9%).
Discussion

Although the citizen complaint process is perceived as being relatively open or
accessible, there is a lack of transparency in the internal workings of the system and in
the dissemination ofinfonnation on its outcomes. The most telling indicator of this is the
Board's failure to analyze its complaint data and to produce regularly published, periodic
reports on the disposition of complaints filed by citizens against police and any
disciplinary actions and remedial measures taken by the department in the agency's 25year history. As noted by Walker and supported by the survey responses in this study,
the lack of feedback or infonnation on the status of citizen complaints is one of the
greatest sources of dissatisfaction for complainants (2001).
In addition, the administrative issues identified in the Office of Professional
Standards' data entry and management practices make the collection, categorization, and
analysis of complaint data difficult, potentially inaccurate, and inefficient. These issues
pose a threat to the integrity of the complaint data and its reliability. Further
25

compromising the city's civilian review process were the actions of personnel within the
Office of Professional Standards. Four police officers assigned to OPS as investigators
were found guilty and convicted of theft-in-office for falsifying their timesheets and
claiming overtime they had not worked. In that these officers were found guilty of lying
about the amount of time they spent working on investigations of citizen complaints
lends weight to the survey respondents' contention that their complaints were not
thoroughly investigated. In addition, the civilian administrator that supervised the unit
was suspended for 20-days without pay for claiming two college degrees on his resume
that he did not have as he applied for another position within the department (Baird,
2008). These illegal and unethical actions of the sworn personnel and the civilian
administrator assigned to the OPS further undermine the integrity, credibility, and
efficacy of this unit and by extension the whole citizen complaint process and the work of
the Police Review Board.
However, despite these deficiencies there is evidence that suggests the agency can
redeem itself and repair its tarnished image in due time, in that the police accountability
literature is replete with examples of law enforcement agencies and units that were
effectively reformed as a result of corruption and scandal (Skolnick & Fyfe, 1993;
Berger, Free, & Searles, 2001; Harris, D., 2005; Walker, 2005). The fact that a majority
of the former complainants surveyed were strong in their conviction that they would file
another complaint in the future if the need arises in spite of their profound cynicism of
the citizen complaint process indicates that the act of filing a complaint still holds some
intrinsic value for these citizens and is something that public officials can potentially
build upon to reform this external oversight agency.

26

Economist Albert Hirschman's theory of "exit, voice, and loyalty" may help
explain this phenomenon of former complainants' seemingly counterintuitive willingness
to file a complaint again in the future given their past negative experience with and
perception of the citizen complaint process. Although Hirschman primarily framed his
theory in an economic context as he states, it is applicable in a social (see Wilson and
Taub, 2007) and political context as well. Hirschman argues that when people are
dissatisfied with the quality of a business firm's product, the performance of an
organization, or the conditions in their social setting in a political sense, management or
those in authority are generally made aware of the customer or constituent's
dissatisfaction through two competing alternatives: exit or voice. Hirschman contends
that under the exit option, "some customers stop buying the firm's products or some
members leave the organization. As a result, revenues drop, membership declines, and
management is impelled to search for ways and means to correct whatever faults have led
to exit," (1970, p. 4).
According to Hirschman, under voice "the firm's customers or the organization's
members express their dissatisfaction directly to management. ..or through general
protest addressed to anyone who cares to listen," at which point management seeks to
find the causes of and solutions to their customers' and members' dissatisfaction (1970,
p.4). Similarly, in his discussion of the development ofa more democratic police force
law professor Erik Luna refers to "voice" as "the ability of affected individuals and
groups to participate in the process of policy formulation and the review of specific
actions, allowing their concerns to be aired and genuinely considered by law
enforcement," (2003, p. 208). The very concept ofa citizen complaint process is by
design meant to give "voice" to the grievances of citizens, which in theory, are then
27

systematically analyzed and used to alert management to instances and patterns of
burgeoning problems in police behavior and misconduct. This is the manner in which
Walker (2005) and Luna (2003) suggest that citizen complaint data be used as an "early
warning" system to notify police administrators of potential problems in officer behavior
and enabling administration to identify and address such issues before they reach a
critical point.
Within the context of Hirschman's theoretical framework the Police Review
Board represents the organization and the citizens that filed complaints with the Board
are the consumers of the services it provides. As noted, the Board is a public agency
established to provide oversight of the police which is a public service i.e. a public good.
Hirschman defines a public good as goods "consumed by all those who are members of a
given community... or geographical area in such a manner that consumption or use by
one member does not detract from consumption or use by another," and from which
"there is no escape from consuming... unless one were to leave the community by which
they are provided," (Hirschman, 1970, p.IOl). Hirschman cites "crime prevention" i.e.
policing, as a public good that results from public policies and is enjoyed by everyone
(1970, p. 101).
The survey respondents that reported being deterred from using the citizen
complaint system again given their past experience with the process are those consumers
that choose to express their dissatisfaction through exit. However as Hirschman notes,
"the concept of public goods makes it easy to understand ... that in some situations there
can be no real exit from a good or organization so that the decision to exit in the partial
sense... must take into account any further deterioration in the good that may result,"
(1970, pp. 101-102).
28

In Hirschman's example of exit the consumer or member that no longer buys the
product or leaves the organization has no concern of the effect their departure has on the
quality of the product or organization, in that they will move on to the next suitable
product or organization that meets there needs. However, this is not necessarily the case
in terms of public goods. As noted, unless a member leaves the community in which the
public good is being provided they are still "a consumer of the article in spite of the
decision not to buy it any longer, and a member of the organization in spite of formal
exit," (Hirschman, 1970, p. 100). Therefore, although a sizable percentage of survey
respondents are unwilling to use the citizen complaint process again to file a complaint
against a police officer, they are still subjected to and affected by the unsatisfactory
quality of the police services provided in the city unless they move outside of the city's
police jurisdiction. Under such circumstances as Hirschman explains, the complainant or
"buyer is involved... in both the production and consumption of the organization's
output," (1970, p. 100) thus the cumulative effect of the alienated complainants'
departure from the citizen complaint process can contribute to the further deterioration of
the quality of policing in the jurisdiction.
Unlike in Hirschman's illustration of exit from consumption of a private good
wherein the decline in revenue or membership due to the loss of dissatisfied customers or
members gets management's attention and compels it to act to resolve the deficiencies
causing the loss, a decrease in the number of complaints filed against police can send
police administrators and city officials the wrong message. A decrease in the number of
complaints filed against police could be interpreted by police administrators and city
leaders to mean that the incidence of police misconduct has declined and that citizens are
generally satisfied with the quality of police services. Such a decrease will not indicate to

29

administrators that a segment of the population has been alienated by the citizen
complaint process due to their past experience and have an aversion to using the system
again.
This illustrates the detrimental effect or the "high cost" (Hirschman, 1970) that
exit can have on the citizen complaint and police oversight process. The exit option
deprives management of valuable feedback i.e. complaints, which are the lifeblood of an
external police oversight mechanism. As a result, in addition to management not
receiving valuable information which should be used to address issues of police
misconduct and to inform training and provide policy guidance, management also is not
made aware of nor are they compelled to address deficiencies within the citizen
complaint process itself. This missing feedback mechanism is what Walker (2001, p.
142) refers to as "the learning" feature of a complaint procedure. This feedback loop
enables the responsible officials to make improvements to both the complaint procedure
and the conduct of officers in the department. Similarly, Maguire and Corbett identifY
"providing information to managers with which to make improvements" and "to maintain
discipline" as two of the key objectives ofa police complaint system (as cited in Waters
& Brown, 2000 p. 635).

The potential loss of this vital feedback apparatus heightens the importance and
value of the disgruntled complainants that are still willing to file a complaint against the
police despite their negative past experiences, to the citizen complaint process and the
concept of police accountability. The initial act of filing a complaint is an expression of
"voice" by all complainants and for most people, all else being equal, the question of
whether to go through the citizen complaint process again is a matter of weighing the cost
and the potential benefits against the expected outcome. The cost would include the time,
30

transportation cost, and the physical and emotional energy expended in filing a complaint
while the benefits would include a chance to "voice" their grievance, the possibility of
having the complaint sustained and the officer sanctioned, potentially impacting police
procedure, training, and policy, and ultimately incrementally improving the quality of
policing overall. However, based on the survey responses related to complainants' past
experiences with the citizen complaint process the majority of the respondents did not
hold high expectations for receiving a favorable outcome from any future complaints.
Therefore, the willingness of some complainants to go through the process again in the
face of their overwhelming pessimism regarding the system appears counterintuitive.
These citizens are exhibiting what Hirschman refers to as "loyalist behavior."
Loyalty to an organization, product, or in this case the citizen complaint/Police Review
Board processes, is "the extent to which customer-members are willing to trade off the
certainty of exit against the uncertainties of an improvement in the deteriorated product,"
(Hirschman, 1970, p. 77). He adds that, "as a rule ... loyalty holds exit at bay and
activates voice," and "in the face of discontent with the way things are going in an
organization an individual member can remain loyal without being influential himself,
but hardly without the expectation that someone will act or something will happen to
improve matters," (1970, p. 77). It is this expectation that someone or something will
change things that these loyalist complainants, particularly blacks, hold on to in their
willingness to go through the citizen complaint process again.
Why would dissatisfied former complainants, particularly blacks, be loyal to the
citizen complaint process? Hirschman argues that exit is the option of preference within
the American tradition, and that "the United States owes its very existence and growth to
millions of decisions favoring exit over voice," (1970, p. 106). He points to the actions
31

of the pilgrims, the settlers of the Western frontier, and the upward social mobility and
physical relocation of individuals and groups away from their community of origin as
they ascend the socioeconomic ladder of "success" in American society as illustrations of
this preference for exit over voice within American culture. He cites the black power
movement within America as an explicit rejection of this traditional pattern of social
mobility which was deemed "unworkable and undesirable" for members of this "most
depressed group in our society," (1970, p. 109).
As Hirschman states, "in the case of the minority that has been discriminated
against a further argument can often be made: namely, that exit is bound to be
unsatisfactory and unsuccessful even from the point of view of the individuals who
practice it," (1970, p. 110). And in examining how community membership affects
people's behavior in addressing social dilemmas Tyler and Degoey (1995) note that
"identification with the community is often proposed to reflect people's psychological
attachment to their community, which alters the basis for their behavior and leads them to
be concerned about the needs of the community." Accordingly, Hirschman argued that
the black power doctrine's open advocacy of the group process of upward mobility over
that of the individual "had immense shock value because it spumed and castigated a
supreme value of American society - success via exit from one's group," (1970, p. 112).
Viewed from this perspective the "loyalist behavior" or attitudes expressed by the
primarily black complainants that are willing to utilize the citizen complaint process
again in the future is rational in that exit isn't necessarily seen as a viable option and this
behavior can be understood as "loyalty" to the African American community. This
perspective is consistent with the tradition of resistance, civil disobedience, and protest
which are central features of the African American experience in America as exemplified
32

by the long struggle to abolish slavery, and the civil rights and black power movements.
As noted earlier, the civilian oversight movement evolved out of the civil rights struggle
and blacks' demands for equality and this persistent willingness to use the citizen
complaint system to "voice" complaints against police misconduct can be understood as
the ongoing manifestation of these demands on the part of black complainants.
Also related to the expression of "voice" are the complainants' objectives in filing
a complaint against the police. As noted, the majority of the survey respondents in this
study were dissatisfied with the citizen complaint and police review board processes
regardless of the outcome of their specific complaint. This respondent dissatisfaction is in
spite of the relatively modest objectives the majority of the respondents held in filing a
complaint. Less than a quarter (22 %) ofthe respondents sought severely punitive
sanctions such as having the officerfired or suspended while the overwhelming majority
sought relatively moderate measures ranging from receiving an apology to having the
officer counseled or reprimanded.
Recommendations
The Office of Professional Standards must incorporate stricter quality control
measures on the data entry and management of the citizen complaints. The
administrative errors found in the complaint files complicate the efficient handling,
categorizing, sorting, and analysis of this data which undermines the integrity of its use as
a management tool to identify emerging problems in police behavior, practices, or
protocol.
Also, the disparity between the complainants' satisfaction with the citizen
complaint/Police Review Board process and their desired objectives in filing a complaint
suggest that the range of potential outcomes from the citizen complaint process should be
33

modified to more closely align with the objectives of citizen complainants (Sviridoff &
McElroy, 1989). Mediation is an alternative form of complaint resolution that several
jurisdictions have adopted and that Cleveland public officials and police administrators
should consider incorporating into the citizen complaint process. In mediation both
parties to the complaint agree to have their case heard in a face-to-face meeting with a
neutral mediator trained in dispute resolution rather than going through the traditional
complainant and investigation process. Bartels and Silverman's exploratory research of
the NYC CCRB mediation program found that complainants that had their cases
mediated were significantly more satisfied with the citizen complaint process, and the
NYPD overall, than those complainants whose cases were fully investigated (2005).
The city should also consider restructuring its civilian oversight mechanism by
hiring and using non-sworn, trained-investigative personnel to conduct the investigations
of the citizen complaints which are then handed over to the review board. This will
transform the OPS/PRB from a Class II to a Class I oversight system which will increase
the agency's independence from the police agency it is charged with providing oversight
of and can serve to enhance the perception of the board's autonomy within the broader
community. If public officials and police administrators are not willing to consider this
option they must at the least implement a more stringent screening process by which
police officers are assigned to the Office of Professional Standards in order to address
ethical concerns raised by the actions of the former OPS personnel, in the eyes of both
the community and the sworn officers within the Cleveland Police Department.
The firm commitment to participate in the citizen complaint process expressed by
a considerable segment ofthe disgruntled former complainants also provides city leaders
and PRB administrators with an opportunity to improve the effectiveness and the public
34

perception of the Police Review Board and the citizen complaint process in the eyes of its
stakeholders. City officials should build upon this commitment among some citizens to
express their "voice" through the citizen complaint process and the perceived "openness"
of the existing complaint system to enhance the effectiveness and the public's confidence
in the citizen complaint process and the Police Review Board and to improve policecommunity relations, particularly within the African American community.
Lastly, the city and the Police Review Board must make the reporting of
information on citizen complaints and their outcome to the public mandatory. In order for
a civilian oversight mechanism to be effective and there be true accountability, the
process must be completely transparent, both internally and externally, to the public it
serves. This can be achieved by regularly producing (annually at the least) and
publishing a comprehensive report detailing the types of complaints received, the length
of the investigative process, the PRB's ruling on the complaints, recommendations made
by the PRB, the chief's ruling on complaints by type, complaints' final disposition, and
any remedial actions taken. This information should be readily accessible to the public
by making it available online through the agency's website, and by releasing it to the
traditional media outlets (newspapers, television news stations, and radio).
Conclusion

The effectiveness of the Cleveland Police Review Board, one of the oldest in the
country, appears to be more symbolic than substantive in providing public oversight and
greater police accountability. The regular examination and reporting of the outcome of
citizen complaint investigations to the public is essential to the concept of civilian
oversight and the failure to do so is antithetical to the principle of transparency which is a
fundamental characteristic of government in a democratic society. The failure to

35

regularly produce and disseminate this information deprives the public of the primary
mechanism by which the performance of the police agency can be measured and in tum
held accountable to the public it serves for the performance or misconduct of its officers.
In addition, the profound cynicism of the citizen complaint process expressed in the
survey responses of citizens that have used the system, and the internal factors identified
in this study that undermine the integrity and credibility of the agency are further
evidence of the agency's marginal effectiveness.
The use of Hirschman's theory of "exit, voice, and loyalty" helps to illuminate the
seemingly paradoxical phenomenon of the willingness of a significant percentage of
persons that have gone through the citizen complaint process before to use the system in
the future to file a complaint against a police officer in spite of their negative experience
with the process. This behavior was particularly salient among African Americans.
As noted, the demand for civilian oversight of police emerged out of the social struggles
of the I 960s and 70s as reflected in the civil rights and black power movements which
gave America's marginalized black population "voice." And 46-years after the passage of
the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 43-years after this city elected the nation's first African
American mayor ofa major U.S. city, and 26-years after it established one of the
country's first contemporary civilian review boards, a segment of this city's population
(as reflected in those citizens that have used the citizen complaint process) is determined
to have their "voice" heard in regards to the effective oversight of the police.
Further Research

Additional research is needed to further explore this phenomenon of "voice"
among citizens and to determine how public officials and police administrators can best
use it to capitalize on this subset of citizens' unwavering commitment to civic
36

engagement in the citizen complaint and police oversight process. In-depth interviews
should be conducted with stakeholders involved with the citizen complaint and Police
Review Board processes including former complainants, rank-and-file patrol officers and
representatives of their bargaining units, police administrators, community leaders and
activists, representatives from civil rights and advocacy groups, members of the Police
Review Board, local elected officials, as well as representatives from the legal
community to further explore factors related to the use of "exit, voice, and loyalty" in
regards to the citizen complaint process. In addition this qualitative data can be used to
gain insight into each constituency's experience with and perception of the citizen
complaint process in order to enhance oversight of the police and help bridge the
historical divide between the police and the African American community.

37

APPENDIX

38

RESULTS OF THE CLEVELAND POLICE CITIZEN COMPLAINT PROCESS SURVEY

informati~n

As a citizen who has filed a complaint against a Cleveland Police officer in the past, this survey is designed to collect
regarding your experience with the citizen complaint process. This study originated with a request from a member ofthe ClevelaJjld
Police Review Board, which askedfor an analysis to be conducted ofthe board's records and procedures in order to determine Its
effectiveness in administering citizen complaints against the police and to determine ways to improve its operations.
i
While your name was used for mailing the survey, your identity will remain anonymous in relation to your participation in t~is
survey and in any reports produced from the findings. We have written a number on your return envelope which will be used ito
record receipt ofyour survey. This procedure will ensure that we remove your name from our list and that you will not receive a~y
follow-up correspondence regarding completion ofthe survey. There are (27) questions on this survey. Please place an "X" in the
appropriate box to indicate your response. The survey consists of three pages. Please complete the questions below and th~n
turn the page over to complete questions 11-21 on page 2, and then please complete the rest ofthe survey in items 22-27 on pake
3. Once you've completed your survey please place it in the self-addressed, prepaid postage envelope provided and place it in ti,e
mail. Please return your completed survey in the envelope provided within 2 weeks. Thank you for participating in this survey. i

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15

I was able to file a complaint without much difficulty
The location where I filed the complaint was easy to
reach from mv home or place of employment
The person that took my complaint was helpful
I felt that the person that took my complaint treated it
as a credible complaint.
The person that took my complaint did not try to
discourage me from filling a complaint
The person that took my complaint explained the
complaint process
This person explained the amount of time it would take
to investigate my case
This person also explained how long it would take for
me to receive a response to my complaint
I feel that my complaint was thoroughly investigated
I feel that the interview and investigation of my
complaint were handled in a bias-free manner
I was kept informed of the status of my complaint
durin\! the process
My complaint was resolved in a timely manner
I feel that my case was thoroughly reviewed by the
Police Review Board
I was satisfied with the Police Review Board's ruling
on mv complaint
I am satisfied with the final judgment regarding my

16 Regardless of the outcome of my complaint,
1 feel that the process was fair
17 The process gave me full opportunity to present
my complaint.

Strongly
At!ree

Agree

Neutral

Disagree

Strongly
Disagree

26.5
25.5

32.7
29.8

11.7
24.2

14.2
9.3

14.8
11.2

21.2
20.0

32.5
29.4

21.9
18.1

13.1
18.1

11.2
14.1

29.2

37.3

17.4

7.5

8.7

18.1

36.2

15.0

18.1

12.5

9.5

19.0

22.8

27.2

21.5

8.2

16.5

22.2

27.8

25.3

6.8
7.5

3.1
8.1

7.5
20.0

25.5
22.5

57.1
41.9

3.9

6.5

6.5

34.4

48.7

4.6
4.6

5.9
2.0

15.7
12.4

32.0
26.1

41.8
54.9

5.2

2.6

7.2

25.5

59.5

4.6

1.3

5.9

24.2

64.1

5.3

5.3

11.3

21.2

57.0

9.7

14.2

14.8

18.7

42.6

39

If I have another complaint against a Cleveland
Police officer I would go through the complaint
process again.
19 My experience with the citizen complaint
process has strengthened my view that police
are held accountable for their behavior.
20 Overall, I would say that the Police Review
Board is an effective means of handling
citizens' complaints against police
21 Which option below best represents your
purpose in filing a complaint against the police
officer(s) To have the officer:
18

30.3

13.5

14.2

11.6

30.3

7.2

6.5

12.4

16.3

57.5

5.9

5.9

20.3

19.6

48.4

Avoloeize

Counseled

Revrimand

SusDended

Fired

7.2

15.1

24.3

10.5

11.2

DEMOGRAPHIC INFORMATION
22
23

24

25

What is your gender
What is your
age
Race!
ethnicitv
What is your
race/ethnicitv
Education
What is the
highest level of
education you
completed
Occupation

16-24

25-34

6.1
Black

12.9
White

53.4

38.0

<lIS

HS/GED

3.7

19.6

Student

Emp. FT.

Male

Female

42.9

52.1

35-44

45-54

27

What is you
occupational
status
Income
(thousands)

What is annual
household
income

65-74
8.6
NH/PI

75Above
1.2

27.6
Hispa
nic
1.8

26.4
Native
A mer.
1.8

13.5
Asian

Voc.
Sch.
9.8

Some
Colle/!e
26.4

BA

Emp.

Unemp.

Homemaker
5.5

Ret.

Other

12.3

11.0

PT
26

55-64

I

I
1.2

21.5

i

l
Grad
De/!.
14.1

5.5

51.5

6.1

3.7

<$20

$20-$34.9

$35$49.9

$50-$74.9

$75$99.9

$100$149.9

$150>

21.5

19.0

15.3

17.8

8.6

7.4

2.5

40

I

I

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44

 

 

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