Cleveland police promise to stop pistol-whipping people

Decree follows damning report about police using firearms as impact weapons

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The Independent US

Police in Cleveland, Ohio will stop hitting people over the head with their guns, following a consent decree between the US Justice Department and Cleveland police released yesterday.

During a two-year investigation that started in 2013, the Justice Department found that police were routinely bashing people on the head with their service pistols, occasionally accidentally firing them.

"[Cleveland Division of Police's] policy will expressly provide that using a firearm as an impact weapon is never an authorized tactic," the consent decree says. "Officers will be trained that use of a firearm as an impact weapon could result in death to suspects, bystanders and themselves."

The legally-binding agreement, which follows months of negotiations with community groups and church leaders, also prohibits officers from brandishing firearms unless they believe lethal force is necessary and requires them to document any time they unholster them.

In light of recent events, it also quite sensibly requires police to train in de-escalate situations verbally rather than approaching suspects with guns drawn.

The 58-page report was incredulous as to why Cleveland police were approaching people with weapons, which also only leaves them with one free hand.

"It is also unclear why CDP appears to be categorizing hitting someone with a gun as a conventional response when force is needed," it said. "This is uniformly understood to be a dangerous practice that should never be permitted except in very unusual and exigent circumstances in which the use of deadly force is authorized; yet, it was a practice we saw CDP officers engaging in too frequently."