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Federal judge appoints new monitor to oversee police reform in Cleveland

Karl Racine is the third consent decree monitor since the city and DOJ started the process in 2015

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Photo/DoD

By Adam Ferrise
cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A federal judge Wednesday appointed former Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine as the new lead monitor overseeing Cleveland police reform.

U.S. District Judge Solomon Oliver appointed Racine and his Washington- and London-based firm Hogan Lovells as the new monitor for the court-ordered reforms, known as the consent decree.

The monitoring team takes on a large role in the process, including acting as independent fact-gathers for Oliver. It also issues public reports on the department’s progress.

Racine declined to comment when reached on Wednesday.

Oliver chose Racine and Hogan Lovells over J.S. Held’s team led by former Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall. Both the city and Justice Department recommended Oliver appoint Racine’s group.

“Notably, the parties appreciated Hogan’s depth and breadth of experience, as well as its commitment to continuity through the retention of some of the members of the current monitoring team because of their expertise and established relationships within the local community,” Oliver’s order said.

The judge noted that Racine’s team move to keep members of the current monitoring team lessens “the possibility that momentum will be lost as a result of the transition.”

Racine is the third Cleveland police consent decree monitor since the U.S. Department of Justice and Cleveland officials agreed to the reform process in 2015.

The agreement followed a Justice Department investigation of Cleveland police practices that found widespread unconstitutional policing, including the use of excessive force, and came in the wake of the 2014 fatal police shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice.

Racine will take over for Hassan Aden, who retired in November. Aden was the former police chief of Greensville, North Carolina.

Deputy Monitor Ayesha Hardaway was appointed acting monitor and led the team for six months. Her team released a semiannual report critical of the department’s lack of progress in issuing internal discipline, among other issues highlighted in the report.

Matthew Barge was the first monitor appointed to oversee the consent decree in 2015.

The change in leadership comes at a time when the focus of reforms is shifting from putting in place new policies and procedures to collecting data to analyze whether the policies are working. A Cleveland Community Police Commission report released earlier this week said the city has completed 39 percent of its work in complying with the consent decree.

It also comes as the city is undergoing a widespread overhaul of its oversight after voters in 2021 approved changes to the city’s charter that puts the Community Police Commission in charge of disciplining officers, ordering training for officers and putting new policies in place. All had previously been done by the city’s police chief and safety director.

Racine joined Hogan Lovells in January after he served two terms as the first-ever elected attorney general in Washington. The post previously had been appointed by the city’s mayor.

During his eight years in office, he helped usher in the end of three consent decrees — one that lasted three decades over the district’s foster care system, another that lasted two decades over its juvenile detention practices and a third over the administration of Medicaid.

He also filed several high-profile lawsuits, including against the NFL’s Washington Commanders and the white nationalist group the Proud Boys, as well as Amazon, Google and Facebook.

Racine earlier in his career served as associate White House counsel during Bill Clinton’s administration and worked as a public defender in Washington. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, where he played on the basketball team. He obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia School of Law.

Racine’s team includes a deputy monitor who oversaw the consent decree in Ferguson, Missouri, which came in the wake of the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown in 2014, and a former acting U.S. attorney in central California.

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