ROLDO: Bonnie & Clyde Cleveland

By Roldo Bartimole

The Bonnie and Clyde ending to two nondescript misdemeanors by the Cleveland police and their 137 bullets is just a reminder of how bad things are in Cleveland. It’s shameful.

What was it a rabbit chase?

What really does it say to Cleveland citizens – especially to black Cleveland citizens? What it says, I suspect, is that you are worthless. You are targets.

Are we back historically to the time when Cleveland Police Chief Richard Wagner took his rifle to house tops during racial strife? Have we advanced so little in reality? Is it hunting season?

I thought things were supposed to have changed. Or at least changing. Not so.

To learn that only a handful of Cleveland police cars have dashboard cameras suggests the lackadaisical approach to governance here. It suggests now wanting to know what is happening. Again, shameful.

It shows a sloth at City Hall hard to explain in a city as large as Cleveland.

To say funds are lacking is laughable.

The shooting is too predictable as events go here.

I have a sense that City Hall is on cruise control.

And why not? There has been a period – near a decade now – where we have seen little vision of a future for much of the city, other than the establishment-dictated downtown development.

Took a walk past the new Cleveland Medical Mart last week. It looks awful. A box-like structure out of place. It did have a purpose. The excuse to raise $800 plus million for a new convention center. The center, still under construction, can’t really be well-viewed but I’m not hopeful from what little that can be seen. Is this all there is to the city? Or all that anyone with power cares about?

The dispiriting riddling of a car with two suspects by police (of what crime at the start seemingly is very questionable) continues a pattern of neglect for human life. The black community has reason to suggest they are targets.

I thought it would be different under Mayor Frank Jackson. I guess I gave him too much credit.

Back in January of 2006 in his first week of office I saw the Jackson I thought I knew.

My headline was: “Jackson’s First Move Made with Perfection.”

I was wrong.

“Mayor Frank Jackson,” I wrote in the 2006 article, “in the first week of his administration made it clear that he’s the man in charge and took on what is typically one of the very toughest issues any mayor faces. The police.

“His announced police policy says, ‘Excessive force shall not be tolerated,'” I went on.

“Jackson told the Cleveland Police Department that he’s in charge and that a new day had begun with the announcement of new rules on ‘use of force.'”

It went on: “Jackson, by his new rules, cuts off excuse making about police shooting civilians under questionable circumstances. There has been a rash of such shootings in recent times.

“I like the way Jackson made this announcement in terse but certain commands. He showed that he is very serious and that he’s in charge.

“It was a perfect tone to set for his administration and I’m surprised that it didn’t get more exposure and comment in the news media.”

I noted that he was “marking a new calendar and I would suggest that the police force understand this man’s seriousness.”

His resolve seems to have been forgotten in the succeeding years. Faded maybe.

Even more worrisome is the feeling that Jackson is coasting. A look at his cabinet suggests very little change since the White administration. Many of the post are still held by former White people. They’re tired.

All indications are for Jackson, now in office for six years, will go for four more with no opposition. That’s too bad. Unhealthy for the city.

Ten years of coasting at City Hall insures a deadly lethargy of ideas and policies.

And if Jackson meant what he said about not tolerating excessive force now is the time to prove it.



Roldo Bartimole has been reporting since 1959. He came to Cleveland in 1965 to report for the Plain Dealer where he worked twice in the 1960s, left for the Wall Street Journal in 1967. He started publishing his newsletter Point of View in 1968 and ended it in 2000.

In 1991 he was awarded the Second Annual Joe Callaway Award for Civic Courage in Washington, D.C. He received the Distinguished Service Award of the Society of Professional Journalists, Cleveland chapter, in 2002, and was named to the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame, 2004. [Photo by Todd Bartimole.]



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7 Responses to “ROLDO: Bonnie & Clyde Cleveland”

  1. Dick Peery

    Roldo, we have to give the mayor his due. As far as I know, this is the first time anywhere that a mayor has immediately called in the FBI to investigate an action by his own police. Those calls usually come from outsiders. Former Mayor Carl Stokes said his biggest frustration was the inability to gain control over the police behavior and assumed no mayor ever could. The difference for Jackson is that he has a chief and safety director who seem willing take on the police they supervise.

  2. richard

    This is Rodney King X 137 = a total lack of training and the professionalism the citizens deserve. I try to support Police Officers. It is a very tough job. This Police Department needs to be shaken from top to bottom. I would guess 1/3 of them have abused steroids (Roid Rage?) Regular screenings for psychological fitness and stress should be a priority.

  3. Roldo Bartimole

    Sorry Dick but the mayor made the right statements six years ago.
    He didn’t deliver.

    Richard, psychological testing has been an issue for decades. It apparently
    doesn’t happen or at the least not enough.

    Chris, I don’t know if there is more to this, as you suggest,but I’d have
    to see the evidence first.

    Thanks all for commenting.

  4. IndyCA35

    About three months ago I didn’t think I was speeding but a black and white pulled in behind me and started flashing lights.

    I did not speed up.

    I did not race through the city at 100MPH.

    I did not try to ram a bunch of cop cars when they finally cornered me.

    Guess what?

    I didn’t get shot.

  5. Roldo Bartimole

    I’m happy for you Indy.

    Does that mean then that the two dead deserved what the got?

  6. Roldo Bartimole

    I want to remind people to click on a second set of articles this week marked
    “Who let the dogs in.” On County Council’s need for $500,000 for staff aides;
    on FitzGerald’s silly $100 college fund per member of a family; and how
    to stop violence on RTA very easily.


  7. John Ettorre

    As you know, Roldo, I agree with Indy. And since he didn’t answer your follow-up question, let me do so. While they may not have deserved death for their actions, at the same time, I also choose to reserve my concern and empathy for the many people who act in more civilized ways when confronted with the police. Having said all that, it’s nevertheless clear that Cleveland still has, and always has had during my lifetime, a problem with its out-of-control cops. Maybe the FBI can ultimately help do something about that.

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