Case Reveals Culture of Violence in the East Cleveland Police Department Against Citizens
CLEVELAND — DiCello Levitt attorneys Robert F. “Bobby” DiCello, Mark A. DiCello, and Justin J. Hawal helped achieve one of the most significant civil rights verdicts in recent history when a Cuyahoga County jury awarded Arnold Black $50 million in his case against the city of East Cleveland, a matter involving brazen police misconduct that captured the nation’s attention, even serving as the subject of the acclaimed podcast, Serial. Thanks to Mr. Black’s courage and the tireless efforts of his trial team and despite numerous legal hurdles, Mr. Black was awarded $20 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages after officers detained him without probable cause, violently beat him, and imprisoned him in a jail’s storage room that had no bed and no toilet and was infested with cockroaches. The case is Arnold Black v. Detective Randy Hicks, et al (Case No. CV-14-826010).
A Culture of Violence in the East Cleveland Police Department
In astonishing testimony recounted yesterday by Ohio’s Eighth District Court of Appeals, East Cleveland Police Detective and supervisor, Randy Hicks, described the policy and culture of violence in the East Cleveland Police Department. In corroborated and uncontroverted testimony he stated that he was a current supervisor of the Department’s “Street Crimes Unit” and a former member of a group of officers that referred to themselves as the “jump-out boys.” The jump-out-boys rode through the city streets looking for “suspected” drug dealers and, when they found individuals they thought fit the description, they would “jump out” of their vehicles and beat, “boot,” and search them without probable cause. Jump-out boys were also trained to “clear the corners,” by holding citizens against police vehicles, searching them for drugs without probable cause, and if drugs weren’t found stripping citizens naked in both winter and summer to make life “inconvenient” for them. Other citizens would be thrown to the ground and beaten and searched without probable cause. These tactics were used daily by the department. Hicks recounted that officers, including his future Chief of Police and fellow jump-out-boy, Ralph Spotts, were taught to use these violent and unconstitutional tactics against ordinary citizens in order to obtain information and to instill fear of the police in the community. Hicks testified that if he did not follow the “East Cleveland Way,” which included use of these violent tactics, he would not have been promoted to a supervisory position.
Justice for Arnold Black
On April 28, 2012, an innocent Arnold Black was stopped by two East Cleveland officers — a uniformed patrolman, Jonathan O’Leary, and a plainclothes detective, Randy Hicks — who handcuffed him and tore apart his vehicle in search of drugs. While still handcuffed and defenseless, Mr. Black was positioned on the bumper of his Chevy Silverado and asked who was selling drugs in East Cleveland. When Mr. Black said he didn’t know any drug dealers, Detective Hicks beat Mr. Black’s head and face until Patrolman O’Leary, stopped Detective Hicks.
After the beating, the detective ordered the still handcuffed Mr. Black be taken to the East Cleveland jail, where he was held in a storage room. The room had no windows, no bed, no toilet, poor lighting, and was infested with cockroaches. Mr. Black was held there for four days without access to bedding, a toilet, shower, or food. He was provided only a single carton of milk in lieu of food and water.
While Mr. Black was being held the other officer at the scene, Patrolman O’Leary, reported the incident to his superiors, including Chief Spotts, and revealed that the dash camera video captured the beating of the handcuffed and defenseless Mr. Black. Patrolman O’Leary also filled out a report of the incident. However, the police report, internal affairs documents, and dashboard camera video of these events were “lost” or destroyed by the City.
In the weeks following the incident Mr. Black sought medical attention and required surgery to remove blood from his brain. He now lives in constant fear of police while suffering the permanent effects of his ordeal.
For the Court’s Opinion in Civil Appeal from the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Case No. CV-14-826010, please click here.