CLEVELAND, Ohio — The new head of Cleveland police’s Internal Affairs Unit was sworn in Friday, tasked with implementing measures that will curb what the Justice Department said was a long-term pattern of biased investigations into officer misconduct.
Ronald Bakeman, 70, will be paid $105,000 a year to be Internal Affairs’ new superintendent. While he technically replaces retired commander Brian Heffernan, Bakeman’s hiring is for a new civilian position that will oversee officer misconduct investigations.
Bakeman told reporters after his swearing-in that he has spent time reviewing investigative files and has found issues he would like to address, He declined to go into more specifics about what questions have arisen as he reviewed reports but said he will work to make the reports more “effective” and easier for the public to understand.
He also said there was a backlog of unfinished investigations. While he declined to estimate how many there were, he said it was far fewer than the 380 or so unfinished investigations at the city’s Office of Professional Standards, which investigates citizen complaints against officers.
“I will try to address all the issues fairly and impartially and most importantly that we can live up to the consent decree and restore the confidence that the people can have in the Cleveland police department, that they are there to serve the people,” Bakeman said.
Cleveland.com first reported in January that the city planned to hire Bakeman.
While the settlement agreement the city reached with the Justice Department mandated that the position be filled by someone who is not a former law enforcement officer, the federal judge overseeing the reforms allowed the city to tweak the agreement to allow Bakeman’s hiring after the city struggled for 18 months to find a suitable candidate.
Bakeman, a Medina resident, served stints leading the U.S Attorney’s Office’s organized crime drug enforcement and national security units. After retiring in 2011, he spent time in Afghanistan advising nationals on law and investigations.
Mayor Frank Jackson administered the oath of office in City Hall’s Red Room while police brass and Bakeman’s family looked on.
The city’s consent decree mandates an overhaul of the Internal Affairs Unit because the Justice Department found in 2014 that Cleveland police failed to adequately investigate and hold officers accountable for using excessive force and committing misconduct.
The city agreed to hire a civilian to oversee Internal Affairs with the hope that it would root out some of the unit’s historical biases.
While he worked as a prosecutor, Bakeman said he hoped his lack of service as a police officer will foster a sense of trust within the Cleveland community. He said his decisions will only be made based on the facts of a case and the law.
The monitoring team is expected to shift its focus to the Internal Affairs Unit. It wrote in a status report in June that it examined 45 Internal Affairs cases from 2015 and more than half of them were deemed to be “fair” or “poor.”
The city hired Bakeman in 2012 for an investigation into payroll abuses in the fire department. His work led Cuyhaoga County prosecutors to charge and convict 13 firefighters accused of illegally paying co-workers to cover assigned shifts.