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Cleveland police announces deal with US Justice Department

Cleveland has agreed to overhaul its police department in a bid to tackle the use of violent tactics by officers. The city has come under fire after several cases in which police targeted unarmed African Americans.

Cleveland's police department announced Tuesday it had

reached a settlement

with the US Department of Justice to implement federal reforms geared towards minimizing racial bias and the use of excessive force.

US District Attorney Steven Dettelbach said the 105-page consent decree included a series of rules to ensure the police's use of force was "proper and lawful" and fully reported when it occurs.

The settlement calls for new use-of-force guidelines, a focus on community engagement, accountability reforms, training on bias-free policing and a mental health advisory committee.

The decree will be a roadmap for police reform as well as "a national model for any police department" in the 21st century, Dettelbach said.

The strategy must now be approved by a federal judge, and will be overseen by an independent inspector-general.

Pattern of abuse

The announcement of the settlement comes three days after white officer Michael Brelo was

acquitted of voluntary manslaughter charges

in the shooting deaths of two unarmed black suspects. Brelo was among 13 officers who opened fire on Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams after a high-speed chase in 2012. A total of 137 rounds were fired at the couple's car.

The case helped spark a lengthy investigation by the Justice Department, culminating in the release of a damning report about police tactics in Cleveland last December.

According to the findings, supervisors do little to investigate officers' violations of policy - and sometimes even encourage them. The agency found that the police department had suspended only six cops for improper use of force over a three-year period. Cleveland police recently killed a handcuffed mentally ill woman and a black 12-year-old boy,

Tamir Rice

, who was carrying a permitted nonlethal pellet gun.

A number of other US police departments have already been brought under federal consent decrees. In the past five years the Justice Department has

launched investigations into the practices

of more than 20 police forces, including agencies in Ferguson, Missouri, and, most recently, in Baltimore.

nm/rc (Reuters, AP)

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