Fatal Cleveland police shooting bolsters arguments that moonlighting officers should wear body cams


By Eric Heisig - Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)



CLEVELAND — Cleveland police have not said whether a moonlighting sergeant who shot and killed a man during a scuffle in University Circle Saturday night was wearing a body camera.

One thing is clear, though: the shooting highlights exactly why body-camera proponents say officers should wear them on either on- or off-duty shifts, and why more police departments across the country are requiring moonlighting officers to wear the cameras.

The shooting happened at the Corner Alley bowling alley on Euclid Avenue and Ford Drive about 11 p.m. Saturday. A fight broke out inside the bar, and employees kicked out the participants, authorities said.

Sgt. Dean Graziolli, who was moonlighting at the business, escorted them outside, but a 21-year-old man returned and attacked the sergeant outside the bowling alley, just a few steps from the front door, police said. Graziolli fired shots, killing the man, whose identity officials have not released.

Cleveland police spokeswoman Sgt. Jennifer Ciaccia did not return an email Monday inquiring whether Graziolli was wearing a body camera. However, departmental policies did not require he be wearing one.

The shooting will almost certainly be brought up by a team monitoring the city’s progress under a consent decree with the Justice Department as evidence that officers should wear the cameras while moonlighting.

The monitoring team pushed for such a requirement within the past year, especially as the city has pointed to a decrease in citizen complaints against officers in the years since it required officers to wear them while on duty.

Residents and patrons don’t know whether a uniformed officer is on or off duty when they see one, the monitoring team argues. Having that footage could also help to resolve disputes over what happened in incidents that involve allegations of police misconduct, including in police-shooting cases.

The city recommended last year that officers wear the body cameras so it could study the feasibility of using them and uploading footage recorded while off-duty. This came after pushback from the city’s two largest police unions meant no officers volunteered for a pilot project the city proposed to study the issue.

It appears no officers voluntarily used a body camera on off-duty shifts, and the city is expected to discuss this at a hearing next week, after the monitor files its next semi-annual report on the city’s progress under the reform agreement.

Greg White, the city’s consent decree coordinator, said he does not anticipate having any examples of moonlighting officers wearing body cameras to present during the hearing.

Meanwhile, departments across the country have taken these issues to heart.

Cleveland.com reported in October that of the 97 departments that patrol the country’s most populous cities, 70 were using body cameras or intended to roll them out very soon. Of those, 42 said officers were required to wear the cameras during secondary uniformed details.

Cleveland Fraternal Order of Police President Brian Betley, whose organization represents Graziolli and other police supervisors, said having body camera footage of Saturday’s shooting would have been helpful.

“It’s helped out in many cases,” Betley said.

Like the city, Betley said the FOP still has concerns about the process, such as who pays an officer to tag and upload footage shot while off-duty.

However, “if things could be worked out favorably, I think it would help them,” Betley said of the officers.

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By Eric Heisig

Advance Ohio Media, Cleveland (TNS)

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