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US Justice Department reaches accord with Cleveland police

The US Justice Department has reportedly reached a settlement with Cleveland over police violence. The news comes after a white officer was acquitted of manslaughter after firing 49 rounds at an unarmed black couple.

The New York Times reported late Monday that Cleveland authorities had reached a settlement with the Justice Department on police violence.

On Saturday, a judge acquitted a white police officer of voluntary manslaughter for his role in the deaths of an unarmed black man and woman - a case that prompted an 18-month investigation in which the Justice Department found that Cleveland police had engaged in systematic excessive force.

Dozens of police cars were involved in a high-speed chase in 2012, when officers said they mistook a backfire from Timothy Russell's Chevrolet Malibu for gunshots. Once officers had cornered Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, 13 of them fired at the car. Police shot at the couple a total of 137 times, with Officer Michael Brelo, now 31, firing at least 49, including the multigun barrage's final 15 rounds - directly downward into the car's windshield after he had climbed onto the hood.

In December, the Justice Department called on Cleveland to reform the police. A judge must approve the city's strategy and an independent monitor will oversee it.

According to the Justice Department, Cleveland police have endangered people by shooting at suspects and cars, have engaged in pistol-whipping, and have used stun guns on handcuffed suspects. The Justice Department reported that police put poorly trained and ill-equipped officers on patrol without instructing them as to how to implement the Cleveland PD's apparently liberal use-of-force policies.

According to the report, 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.

The deaths, Saturday's verdict and the settlement come as awareness has grown over police violence - often against people of color. The Justice Department has opened nearly two dozen investigations into municipal forces since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, often finding systemic racism and brutality.

Earlier this month, federal authorities said they would investigate police in Baltimore after Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, died of injuries he suffered while in police custody. A grand jury has indicted six officers for Gray's death.

mkg/rc (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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