MANSFIELD: Another Log Goes on the Fire


One thing Cleveland cop Aaron Reese (who has, in the last five years, twice been suspended from duty and accused of steroid use and fraud) should have learned is that you don’t get into a pissing match with someone as wealthy and powerful as businessman Tony George … especially if you’ve got a ton of skeletons in your closet, since he’s going to make sure that eventually they’re all going to come tumbling out. He’s really not someone you want to dick around with, unless you’re on real solid ground.

In a fairly long Plain Dealer story detailing the back and forth beef that went on between George and Reese for a couple of years, one thing became crystal clear: Reese seemingly plays by his own sets of rules, making them up as he goes along, and seemingly it works. It appears as if he gets away with all kinds of questionable behaviors.

Reese pitted his police powers up against the power of George’s bankroll and while the jury called the case a draw, one of them is going to eventually be wearing their ass for a hat, and I’ll leave it to you to figure out who that will be.

But before we ask why this case made the news, we should realize that Reese is not alone; he’s not the only cop in Cleveland who thinks he’s bulletproof. Many others know how to manipulate the system well enough to always seem to land on their feet no matter how much dog shit they step into. There are dozens, if not literally hundreds, of other cops who know how to game a system that was supposedly designed to insure accountability, but one that’s turned more protective than it is corrective of bad police behavior.

As Mayor Frank Jackson has been saying all along, the system for meting out punishment for cops caught doing wrong is rigged, heavily weighted against any kind of meaningful sanctions being imposed (and made to stick) against a cop. Arbitrators almost always rule in favor of the person in blue … no matter the facts of the matter or the level of their wrongdoing.

Can anyone who considers themselves to be fair-minded, honest broker deny that we’ve allowed an armed class of citizen to be created in this country that exist above and beyond the law … based solely on the fact they’ve been entrusted to uphold the laws they’re currently making a mockery of?

The supposed genius of our democracy lies — allegedly — in the fact that over time it will self-correct, that it will seek the sane middle ground, a kind of legal homeostasis if you will. And in most other matters of politics and public concern this works, but obviously not in policing — as incidents around the country too numerous to mention, gruesomely attest to.

As the case of Aaron Reese so amply illustrates, a purposefully tangled web of cops, their supervisors who are supposed to hold them accountable, union officials, attorneys, arbitrators and judges make correcting this problem with policing a monumental task; it’s been going on for so long that wrong now seems like right.

Articles like this one — and the one in the Sunday Plain Dealer — mean absolutely nothing to these men and women who “operate outside the box” as Frank Jackson is fond of saying. They’re all from Missouri; we’re going to have to show them we mean business, and so far we haven’t.

Why should cops take this for serious? In a city where they can (and do) get away with legalized murder, does Reese’s alleged misbehaviors even rate a blimp on the radar screen? Egregious as his alleged behavior seems, it’s still only small potatoes, just another log on an already roaring, out-of-control fire.

The problems with the Cleveland Division of Police are so big, so ingrained, so systemic … the only real way to solve them is with the assistance of an outside agency … i.e., the U.S. Department of Justice. Everyone in town realizes this … with the exception of Mayor Jackson and those who are hiding from the truth down in the City Hall bunker with him.

Indeed, if the mayor and his team were capable of fixing the problem (and I believe, based on solid evidence, that no mayor in the country has ever solved the problems of their own police department absent outside help) after two terms wouldn’t it be fixed by now?

[Photo: banspy]


From Cool Cleveland correspondent Mansfield B. Frazier Frazier’s From Behind The Wall: Commentary on Crime, Punishment, Race and the Underclass by a Prison Inmate is available again in hardback. Snag your copy and have it signed by the author by visiting



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