Friday, January 23, 2015


Today is my last day at Cleveland Magazine. I'm moving on to a new job, as a senior writer at Boston Magazine.

It's been a privilege to write about Cleveland and its politics for so long. I love Cleveland and will miss it.  But after 12 1/2 years in my job, it's time for me to try something new.

I'll also miss competing and sharing knowledge with the many talented journalists who cover Cleveland's politics, courts and big civic debates.

Any regular readers of my blog who are looking for sources for Cleveland political news could follow Nick Castele at WCPN, Tom Beres at WKYC, M.L. Schultze at WKSU and Sam Allard at Scene. It's also worth following WCPN producer Lawrence Caswell, one of the most interesting Facebookers & tweeters in Cleveland.

Among Plain Dealer people, I want to tip my hat to some of the reporters I came up in Cleveland journalism with, who are doing strong work on politics and big issues today: Rachel Dissell, Mark NaymikHenry GomezLeila Atassi, and Bob Smith.  It's a great news town, and they're some of the best covering it.

Cleveland Magazine has been a fantastic place for me to grow as a writer, reporter, storyteller, and editor.  Of the many people I work with here who've supported my writing, I owe the most to Steve Gleydura, my editor for my entire 12 1/2 years here.  His deep instincts for narrative storytelling played a huge part in helping me become the writer I am today. I'm grateful for the trust he placed in me.

I'm also grateful to you, the reader, for following my work, spreading it on social media, and caring about the issues I've covered.

If you're looking for me after today, you can read my work at and follow me on Twitter at @ErickTrickey.

After 36 years, will Kucinich’s City Hall portrait debut in 2015?

This could be the year that Cleveland corrects a historic snub. Thirty-six years after he left the office, Dennis Kucinich is the only modern Cleveland mayor who doesn’t have a portrait hanging at City Hall.

Now, an official portrait of him is finally finished, and Kucinich says he's pleased.

“I’m very happy to learn about its completion,” Kucinich tells me. “I appreciate all people who made the effort to bring it about. I look forward to seeing it. If it’s posted at City Hall, I will be very glad to attend an unveiling.”

Artist Matthew Hunt completed his portrait of Kucinich as mayor last year (see my earlier story here). Kucinich says he doesn’t want to judge the portrait based on the photograph on my blog.

“I can’t comment about portrait unless I see it,” Kucinich says. “I don’t think it’d be fair to assess its value.” He says he doesn’t know if it’s up to him to approve or disapprove.

That’s significant, because some supporters are pausing to be sure Kucinich really wants the honor.

When a Cleveland mayor leaves office, the business community usually pays for a formal portrait to hang at City Hall. But the city fathers were in no mood to honor Kucinich, the fiery young populist, when his two tumultuous years as mayor ended in 1979.

So Kucinich is missing from the mayor’s Red Room -- where, during press conferences, legendary former mayor Tom Johnson looks over Mayor Frank Jackson’s shoulder. Recent mayors — Mike White, Jane Campbell, George Voinovich — gaze down from other walls.

In 2002, after Kucinich revived his career and was elected to Congress, supporters set out to right the wrong. City councilman Joe Cimperman and John Ryan, then president of the local AFL-CIO, got then-mayor Campbell to agree to accept a portrait.

Cimperman, Ryan and others held a pierogi and kielbasa fundraiser in Tremont with tickets at $20 a person. Kucinich attended; so did Campbell. (Here’s my coverage of the event.) Hunt won a competition to paint the portrait in 2003.

Then the project stalled. First, it took Kucinich three years to meet with Hunt. Finally, in 2006, Hunt spent a morning observing Kucinich in his Lakewood office and ten minutes photographing him. Then the portrait took Hunt eight years to finish, due to health problems, business setbacks and a flooded house.

Now, the portrait waits in Hunt’s Akron home. The artist is unsure whose job it is to accept the portrait and pay him.

Ryan, now an aide to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, says he’ll get it done. Cleveland Jobs With Justice, a nonprofit he founded, is holding the money in an account just for the portrait, and will pay the artist, Ryan says.

“My guess is, what they have to do is see if there’s a way to get the former congressman and mayor to participate, even if they have to hold it off for a couple months,” Ryan says.

“If he just refuses, well, we’re going to put this darn thing up,” Ryan adds. “I think it should be some kind of event. Mayor Kucinich’s term of office was not just about him, but about the whole town.”

Officially, City Hall is ready to take in Kucinich's likeness. “We would welcome the opportunity to place his portrait here in City Hall,” a spokesperson for mayor Jackson told me.

But Cimperman says Jackson and Harriet Applegate, Ryan’s successor at the AFL-CIO, want to make sure that Kucinich is OK with the portrait going up.

Though no one says so, Kucinich’s Cleveland friends seem to wonder if he is ambivalent about the honor. Ryan says Kucinich accepted the portrait effort “reluctantly” in 2002, and that he “disappointed” some supporters by taking years to meet with the artist. Perhaps being enshrined in an establishment institution like City Hall feels odd to Kucinich, the proud maverick.

The worst-case scenario, Cimperman says, is that the portrait will end up displayed somewhere other than City Hall. He hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“I’m feeling the need to get the portrait closer to the city, closer to the Red Room, where it deserves to be,” Cimperman says. (Though Cimperman challenged Kucinich in the 2008 Democratic primary for Congress, the two have reconciled since, most publicly at a 2011 benefit for Cleveland Public Theater.)

“Like or dislike, support or not support, history is history,” Cimperman says. “This was a person who served as mayor during a fundamental time in the history of Cleveland. The absence of his portrait is conspicuous.

“I think if people saw it, they would recognize it for being a great piece of art and a missing piece in that portion of our history.”

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Will we ever get answers on the Ameritrust Tower debacle?

Ten years ago today, Jimmy Dimora allegedly held one of his now-infamous power meetings in Independence, at the Holiday Inn on Rockside Road. The topic of the day was the Ameritrust Tower.

Dimora and his fellow Cuyahoga County commissioners were searching for a new county headquarters site. Two months earlier, in November 2004, the Staubach Co., the county’s real estate consultant, had delivered a report that scored the Ameritrust complex fourth among competing developers’ proposals.

But on Jan. 21, 2005 -- according to the lawsuit Ed FitzGerald’s administration filed in June -- Dimora met with someone from Staubach and the company’s attorney, Dimora crony Anthony Calabrese III.

Four days later, Staubach delivered its recommendation that the county should relocate to the Ameritrust complex, owned by the late developer Dick Jacobs -- even though it still ranked lower than other sites in Staubach's scoring.

Later in 2005, Dimora and his fellow county commissioners dumped the plan to lease the Ameritrust complex and bought it for $21.7 million. The county eventually lost about $28 million on its investment in the Ameritrust site. The costs included a $2.6 million payment to Staubach to get out of its contract.

Today, Cuyahoga County’s new government has a lawsuit pending against the firm and several other defendants. The suit is Cleveland’s last chance to get the elusive answers to long-asked questions:

Did Dimora corrupt the decision to buy the Ameritrust Tower? Did he nudge the 2005 county headquarters search toward his benefactor, Dick Jacobs, who had seeded his 1998 campaign with a $36,000 donation?

Did the pattern revealed in the 2008 federal corruption investigation -- people paying Dimora’s cronies to influence him – also lead to the Ameritrust Tower debacle?

A decade after the alleged deed, the question is in danger of receding into history. But it’s still alive, because there’s money at stake.

FitzGerald and his law director, Majeed Makhlouf, spent years building a case against Staubach and the politically connected consultants and attorney it hired, including Vince Russo (Frank Russo’s son) and Calabrese -- both of whom were sentenced to federal prison on other corruption charges.

The former Staubach, now Jones Lang LaSalle, says Russo, Calabrese, and company performed legitimate services for them. Its lawyers -- and other defendants’ -- have filed disdainful court briefs asking judge Jose Villanueva to dismiss the case.

The firm calls the county’s complaint “patently false,” says it “fails to meet even the barest pleading requirements,” and has “no facts to support its claims.” It argues that FitzGerald filed his case too late because of the statute of limitations.

The suit faces other hurdles besides the passage of time. Staubach wasn’t quite responsible for the decision to buy the Ameritrust complex – it recommended that the county lease the site and move in. It warned that totally new construction would not be "fiscally responsible." The decision to buy it instead (to tear it down) was heavily influenced by Tim Hagan, who joined the county commission in January 2005 and felt it was important for the government to own its headquarters, not be “subservient to a landlord.”

Now that FitzGerald is gone, how hard will the county keep fighting?

FitzGerald was practically obsessed with the 2005 Ameritrust Tower transaction during his four years as county executive. He knew that the purchase of the long-vacant skyscraper was one of the reasons voters threw out the old government, which made his election possible. The former FBI agent and ambitious reformer was energized by the prospect of baring ugly truths about the tower deal. He badly wanted to prove he could govern better than the Dimora-era regime.

Now the battle falls to Armond Budish, FitzGerald’s successor. Budish has already shown hints of distancing himself from his predecessor’s legal battles. He’s announced that he’ll hire a new law director to replace Makhlouf. Within days of taking office, he released FitzGerald’s keycard records, which FitzGerald had tried to withhold from the public.

In some ways, the Ameritrust suit is a remnant of Cuyahoga County’s dirty past. FitzGerald mopped up the Ameritrust debacle by selling the complex to a developer who agreed to build and lease a new headquarters for the county on the site. (In keeping with FitzGerald’s goal to reduce the size of county government, the new building is smaller than the behemoth Dimora and Hagan envisioned and abandoned.)

Now, the modern, glassy new county HQ is open. Next door, the once-scorned Ameritrust Tower has been resurrected as The 9: a luxury hotel, club stage for burlesque dancers, and high-rise home of Johnny Manziel. The gorgeous Cleveland Trust rotunda is about to reopen as, of all things, a downtown grocery store.

Both sides are awaiting Villanueva’s ruling on the motions to dismiss the case.  If the judge issues a mixed ruling -- allowing some counts to proceed but hinting at weaknesses in the case – then I could see Budish deciding to cut the legal bills and declare it’s time to move on.

Or, Budish could adopt FitzGerald’s zeal. He, too, could benefit politically if he recovers money possibly lost to the old regime’s corruption.

There’s also a simpler reason for Budish to keep fighting.

The suit seeks to resolve important unanswered questions. Did we truly plumb the depths of Cleveland’s corruption in 2008? Or did the corruption go even higher and deeper than we know?

Ten years later, Clevelanders still deserve an answer.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Linndale’s I-71 speed trap shrinks; old cases feed tiny town’s revenue

The Linndale police department's infamous reign as the toll-taking trolls under the bridge is fading into Cleveland history.

The tiny village with the legendary speed trap, familiar to I-71 drivers since the 1960s, has eased up on freeway enforcement.

“The focus is on protection of the village,” says police chief Tim Franczak.

Since the village's Mayor's Court was shuttered two years ago, Linndale police have not abandoned the microvillage’s 422 yards of freeway. They ticketed 783 drivers for speeding in 2014, the vast majority on I-71, according to Parma Municipal Court records.

But those 783 tickets — about 15 a week — are a big drop from 2013, when Linndale police cited 2,050 people for speeding in roughly the last 10 months of the year.

“I don’t see a need to maintain a high level of patrol during the day [on I-71],” says Franczak, who took the chief job in summer 2014. Other law enforcement agencies also patrol the freeway, he notes. “Our officers may focus more on evening hours: traffic enforcement, drug interdiction, things of that nature.”

Linndale, which boasts an official, inflated population of 179, used to make $800,000 a year off court fines — 80 percent of its village budget. But when the state closed Linndale’s mayor’s court in March 2013, all its cases went to Parma Municipal Court. The microvillage went through layoffs later that year.

In 2014, Linndale collected only $151,839 in disbursements from the Parma court — one-fifth its old haul.

Today, Linndale’s cash flow from the Parma court is based on a shrinking number of new traffic and criminal cases, plus two batches of old cases it forwarded to the Parma court.

In July 2013, the Parma court canceled about 800 defunct Linndale court warrants for defendants who'd failed to appear and opened new cases about the years-old traffic incidents.

“What we tried to do was send letters saying your case has been transferred,” says Chris Castro, a manager at the Parma court, “and you have a chance to get right with us.”

Linndale is also due to receive money from 1,500 other old cases, in which a convicted and sentenced defendant still owes fines. The Parma court worked through that case backlog as 2014 ended, filing the last 832 Linndale transfers in November and December.

Not all of Linndale’s practices translated well in Parma’s court. Castro says the court has reduced fines on Linndale defendants cited for “financial responsibility” — failure to provide proof of insurance. Linndale police sent 1,172 financial responsibility citations to the court in 2013 and 611 in 2014. That citation requires a court appearance.

Court officials felt Linndale police were over-citing drivers.

“It’s just a bullshit charge,” says Castro. “They wouldn’t even ask them for their card. They would just mark down that they never showed it.”

Franczak strongly denies this. “No, that wouldn’t happen,” the chief says. All financial responsibility citations come from an officer's request that a driver produce proof of insurance, he says.

Despite Linndale’s tightening budget, Franczak says he’s maintaining a police force of three full-timers and about 20 part-timers. Some are volunteer officers, part of a police reserve, he says.

With traffic fines declining, Linndale’s budget will likely continue to shrink. Property and income taxes brought in only about $85,000 in 2013, according to the state’s annual audit of the village, released in September.

The village’s traffic camera program on Memphis Avenue, which began in late 2013, will likely end in 2015. A new state law, which takes effect in March, severely restricts traffic camera programs statewide by requiring an officer to be present to issue citations. Franczak says that law won’t affect his force — which implies that Linndale’s cameras will shut down.

Still, Linndale isn’t likely to go away. State laws prevent forced mergers of even the tiniest, poorest towns.

“It is the Village’s belief,” says the state audit, “that with these austerity measures, the Village will be able to survive with 24 hour police protection and basic community services with no problem.”

Click here to read Cleveland Magazine’s 2011 story about Linndale’s inflated census figures. The story helped inspire the abolition of mayor’s courts in tiny towns.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

3rd Police District is the ‘forward operating base’ in Justice Dept. report

The Justice Department’s scolding report on the Cleveland police department has brought up lots of unanswered questions, but here is one I can answer.

The 3rd police district -- which includes downtown, University Circle, Hough, Fairfax, and Central – is the place where the commander referred to the station as a “forward operating base” in an interview with Justice investigators. A sign in the station’s vehicle bay used the phrase too.

The 3rd Police District
The comment alarmed the Justice investigators, who saw it as a sign of an us-vs.-them mentality among police.

“There’s actually an interesting story behind that sign,” 3rd District commander Patrick Stephens told me. “They totally missed the point of the sign.”

Stephens said he’d be happy to answer questions about it, but had to call the chief’s office for permission first. Permission was denied.

Steve Loomis, president of the Cleveland Police Patrolman’s Association, was a 3rd District detective until the end of December. Loomis says the “forward operating base” sign was up in the vehicle bay of the station at 10600 Chester Avenue for at least a year, and was taken down after the Justice Department report came out in December.

“I think the commander’s son is in the military,” Loomis says. “It’s a term of endearment. I don’t think there’s anything sinister to it.

“We’re out there doing the job every day like the military guys,” Loomis added. “That was the premise behind the sign. We have an extraordinary amount of military guys join the police department. Those are just terms they know and understand.”

The Justice Department found the “forward operating base” line disturbing. “Such metaphors have no place in a community-oriented police department,” the December report says.

“This characterization reinforces the view held by some—both inside and outside the Division—that CDP is an occupying force instead of a true partner and resource in the community it serves,” the report says. It even cites the military line as an example of its finding that the department “too often polices in a way that contributes to community distrust and a lack of respect for officers.”

Phyllis Cleveland, city councilwoman for Ward 5, which includes parts of the 3rd Police District, says she sees two ways of looking at the phrase.

“It has a connotation that's very militaristic, maybe even a hostile-type attitude, for the average non-police-officer, non-law-enforcement person,” Cleveland says.

“My other reaction is also that in almost any other industry, or sector, or type of job, you have your gallows type of humor.

“Overall, it doesn’t look good,” Cleveland added. “Taken into the context of all the other things in the report, and things that are happening, it’s not a good look.”

Is the sign a warning of a broader problem? Cleveland says she has “great respect and admiration” for Stephens, commander of the 3rd District since 2011. “He’s been very responsive as commander to me and other residents in the community.”

Cleveland says complaints about the police in her ward are usually about officers being discourteous; brutality complaints there are rare, she says.

Taking the sign down is just a start, Cleveland says.

“I think what everyone wants to do is come to some kind of understanding and find a way to reestablish or establish trust between the police and the community,” she says.

Cleveland and Loomis both say they support the Justice Department’s call for more community policing. But, “there’s no consensus around what that really means,” Cleveland says.

Loomis notes that Cleveland once had a robust community policing strategy, including mini-stations in neighborhoods, but it was dismantled in the mid-2000s when then-mayor Jane Campbell laid off about 500 police officers. Mayor Frank Jackson has reduced the force by about 300 more officers, to about 1,300, he says. So 911 calls trump foot patrols and school visits.

“The reality is, there’s not time,” Loomis says. “We’re going run to run to run to run. We’re a skeleton crew.”

Writer and activist Mansfield Frazier, who lives in the 3rd District, says the “forward operating base” comment confirms his concerns about the average policeman patrolling Hough.

“I’ve been saying for a long time that by and large, police are an army of occupation in some communities,” Frazier says. “That shows they feel the same way.”

When he’s out in his Hough Ave. vineyard, Frazier has written, black police officers often wave or call out greetings, while white officers rarely do, even when he greets them. “In the black community, they want to treat everybody like they’re thugs,” he argues. “They don’t differentiate.”

Frazier calls Stephens “a very decent guy” who quickly returns his calls, and he says some officers have gotten friendlier lately. But overall, he says, “This whole notion is, I don’t want to be invested, don’t want to get to know you, don’t want to be your friend.”

Friday, December 19, 2014

10 unanswered questions about excessive police force and the Justice Dept. report

Two weeks after the Justice Department released its scathing report on the Cleveland police, the city’s debate about excessive force is stuck in low gear.

Mayor Frank Jackson says he disagrees with parts of the Justice report, but he won’t say which. Embattled safety director Michael McGrath calls the report unfair. City council has embarked on a “listening tour,” but hasn’t promised concrete action.

Here are 10 questions that city council, the press and the public ought to demand of the Jackson Administration. An assertive city council should bring up these questions in hearings. If it doesn’t act, it may be up to the public, the press and a few maverick councilpeople to investigate and get answers.

1. The Justice Department report says: “In most of the instances of excessive force we identified, supervisors all the way up the chain of command approved the use of force as appropriate.” Does that mean that McGrath, who was police chief during the federal investigation, signed off on those uses of force as justified?

2. The report gives 16 detailed examples of excessive force. It gives pseudonyms to 15 of the injured citizens, but one man, Edward Henderson, is named, and has identified three others: Germaine Ware, Gregory Love and Randell Scott, Jr.

In how many of those 16 cases were any officers disciplined? If no one was disciplined, did McGrath, as chief, personally sign off on that decision? Does McGrath defend those uses of force? If so, how?

3. Mayor Jackson told reporters Dec. 11, “If you look at the use of force over time, you will see that it has decreased. You will see that there has been accountability.”

But U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge wrote in her Aug. 25 letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that “nothing” happened after Justice’s first investigation of the Cleveland police in 2004. “The recommendations were ignored and the abuse of many citizens continued,” Fudge wrote. “A lack of meaningful accountability remained within the Cleveland police department.”

How does Mayor Jackson respond to Fudge’s letter?

Jackson added, “I have confidence” in his past and present chiefs and safety directors “in terms of their attempt to correct behavior that needs to be corrected.”

Does Rep. Fudge agree or disagree with Mayor Jackson?

4. Council president Kevin Kelley, asked at a press conference about protestors’ calls for McGrath to resign, responded, “What would that solve? Where would that get us?”

What is Kelley’s plan to ensure that existing police and safety leaders hold officers to a higher standard on use of force cases than they have in the past?

5. In the New Year’s Eve 2010 death of Rodney Brown after a traffic stop, what does the safety leadership say about why no officers were disciplined?

Why was the officer who said, “So? I don’t give a F—” when Brown said, “I can’t breathe not disciplined?

6. The next day, New Year’s Day 2011, several police kicked Edward Henderson while he was on the ground by a highway. Henderson went to the hospital with a broken bone near his eye. A police helicopter’s infrared camera caught the incident, but the video does not reveal the officers’ identities. Federal prosecutors launched a grand jury probe that has lasted years but produced no indictments.

The Justice Department says four officers spent time on administrative leave without pay, but were not formally disciplined. None of the 10 or so officers on the scene filled out a use of force report. “To date, no officers have identified any of the officers who used force in this incident, and no officers have been disciplined for failing to report this incident,” the report says.

Does that mean the federal grand jury probe has reached a standstill? Did the officers also stay silent when Cleveland’s internal affairs investigators interviewed them about the incident? If the criminal probe is over, will the officers now be disciplined for covering up others’ excessive force?

7. The Justice Department found that the police Use Of Deadly Force Investigation team and its Internal Affairs Unit both conduct inadequate investigations. Use-of-force investigators even admitted they slanted their reports to favor officers.

What will Mayor Jackson, Safety Director McGrath, and chief Calvin Williams do to reform the two units? Is it possible to effectively reform them if their leadership and personnel stay the same?

8. The city charter promises that a civilian Police Review Board will review citizen complaints about police after an investigation by the Office of Professional Standards. But the 2004 and 2014 Justice reports both found that the Office of Professional Standards is understaffed, moves slowly and does not investigate all the complaints it should. The new report also says the Police Review Board’s reviews are inadequate and lack transparency, and that neither the board or the OPS are reviewing deadly force incidents, as the charter gives them the power to do.

What will the mayor and council do to make the Police Review Board and Office of Professional Standards live up to the charter’s promise? Will it take a new charter amendment?

9. In Tamir Rice’s death, was the dispatcher’s failure to radio that Rice was “a juvenile” and his gun was “probably fake” an isolated mistake, or part of a pattern? How often do dispatchers relay alarming information to patrol officers but leave out important details that might lead them to de-escalate a situation?

10. Will the Cleveland police receive more training on use of force policies? Deescalating confrontations? Recognizing crossfire situations? Scenario-based training, including simulated pursuits? Controlling subjects appropriately? Dealing with the mentally ill?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Jackson’s support on police issues crumbles; Call + Post, Jeff Johnson want McGrath and Flask out

For years, as concerns about Cleveland’s police department have grown, the city’s black political establishment has stood behind Mayor Frank Jackson and his safety department leadership. As alarm mounted in the black community, Jackson faced no challenge from the left on police issues.

That’s not true anymore.

The Justice Department’s damning report on the Cleveland police’s use of excessive, unnecessary force has changed that. So has Jackson’s tepid, conflicted response to the report’s release on Thursday and his renewed endorsement of his safety director, Michael McGrath.

Jeff Johnson, city council’s most outspoken critic on Cleveland police use of force issues, stood by Jackson and McGrath in the aftermath of the now-famous Nov. 2012 chase and shooting. Not anymore.

"Marty Flask and Michael McGrath have to step down,” Johnson tells’s Leila Atassi in today’s Plain Dealer. “Immediately. Like, today."

Highlights of Atassi’s story:

Johnson said Friday that the culture of policing in Cleveland cannot change until the mayor overcomes his irrational loyalty to McGrath and Flask. …

"If the police officer doesn't believe he will be disciplined, he will continue to do what he does. That is on McGrath."

…"I don't want anybody resting," Johnson said. "I don't want the protests to stop. They need to light a fire under city officials and turn the heat up on City Hall."

Johnson is not part of council’s pro-Jackson majority. So maybe the mayor could soldier on defending McGrath without Johnson’s support.

But an NAACP official,* several black ministers and the Call and Post will soon join the calls for McGrath and Flask to be fired, Tom Beres of WKYC reports:

Michael Nelson, co-chair of the NAACP Criminal Justice Committee, said, "We cannot have the same people in charge who have been presiding over the Police Department the last 10, 15 or 20 years. The culture doesn't change."

The Justice Department’s findings are pushing Cleveland beyond the clich├ęd, stagnant debate we’ve had for two years, about whether the Nov. 2012 chase and shooting represented a “systemic failure” in the police department, as Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine famously said in his Feb. 2013 press conference.

Jackson resisted that conclusion because he saw the chase and shooting as a mass insubordination, in which officers and supervisors ignored existing rules that severely limit high-speed chases. Jackson says DeWine told him in a phone call that if it were up to him, he wouldn’t charge any officers with crimes in that shooting. Jackson saw McGrath, who has disciplined more than 70 officers and supervisors so far over the chase, as the one person bringing a “semblance of justice” in the matter.

But the Justice Department report addresses that old argument and goes far past it. Some choice quotes from it (emphasis mine):

Any effort to force a decision between systemic problems and individual accountability is nothing more than an effort to set up a false choice between two important aspects of the same broader issues that exist at CDP. …

[DeWine’s office] issued a report that raised serious questions about CDP’s policies, training, supervision, communication, and technology. … Many of the concerns regarding policies, training, supervision, accountability, and equipment that were implicated by that incident were confirmed during our investigation. ...

In most of the instances of excessive force we identified, supervisors all the way up the chain of command approved the use of force as appropriate. …

The current pattern or practice of constitutional violations is even more troubling because we identified many of these structural deficiencies more than ten years ago during our previous investigation of CDP’s use of force. … Many of the policy and practice reforms that were initiated in response to our 2004 memorandum agreement were either not fully implemented or, if implemented, were not maintained over time.

McGrath was police chief from 2005 to 2014. Flask was safety director from 2006 through 2014. How are they not responsible for the state of the police department?

And the question goes beyond McGrath and Flask, to the mayor. It's not at all clear that Jackson accepts the Justice Department report, or that he will move fast to address it.

"There are problems in the Division of Police, and this review has demonstrated some of them," Jackson said at U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's Thursday press conference. "We will enter into discussions with the DOJ as to how we address those that really are problems."

When Mary Anne Sharkey, a city council communications consultant, defended Jackson on Facebook yesterday, Terry Gilbert, a lawyer who often sues the police over claims of excessive force, argued back:
Sorry Mary Anne I don't agree. After meeting last night with DOJ officials [it] was clear that getting Jackson to agree to a consent [decree] was a struggle as he continues to defend the management of the department. Only after they threatened to file suit did he back down.
That's why Jeff Johnson, the NAACP*, and the Call and Post aren't deferring to the mayor anymore.

*Update, 12/9: Looks like Michael Nelson of the Cleveland NAACP was speaking for himself when he talked to Beres. Hilton Smith and Sheila Wright, the local NAACP's president and executive director, tell that the organization hasn't decided whether to call for any resignations.  (I've changed this post and its headline to reflect that.)