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Just How Bad Were Cleveland's Police Abuses?

Pretty bad, according to a report from the Justice Department.

Mark Duncan/AP

Just weeks after a Cleveland police officer fatally shot a 12-year-old boy who was carrying a pellet gun, Attorney General Eric Holder arrived to deliver the findings of an extensive investigation of the practices of the Cleveland Police Department. The results are not flattering.

According to the Justice Department, which investigated roughly 600 incidents involving the use of force by police over four years, the news from the Forest City isn't good. Standing beside Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and others, Holder explained in a press conference on Thursday "that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Cleveland Division of Police engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force." The department is in violation of Fourth Amendment "as a result of systemic deficiencies, including insufficient accountability, inadequate training and equipment, ineffective policies, and inadequate engagement with the community."

Among the findings of the Justice Department's investigation are failures of the Cleveland Police Department to review and investigate acts of misconduct, properly train forces, and craft or implement policy.

More damningly, the Justice Department also outlined a pattern of specific abuses by the Cleveland's Division of Police from 2010 until 2013, include:

The unnecessary and excessive use of deadly force, including shootings and head strikes with impact weapons;

The unnecessary, excessive or retaliatory use of less lethal force including Tasers, chemical spray and fists;

Excessive force against persons who are mentally ill or in crisis, including in cases where the officers were called exclusively for a welfare check; and

The employment of poor and dangerous tactics that place officers in situations where avoidable force becomes inevitable.

So whither, Cleveland? As The Times noted, as an upshot of the investigation "the city has agreed to work toward a settlement with the Justice Department known as a consent decree that will tighten and govern policies on use of force and subject police to oversight by an independent monitor." The report added that once the details are ironed out, Cleveland will join cities like Seattle, Detroit, New Orleans, and Albuquerque, all of which have consent decrees in effect with the Justice Department.

This post originally appeared on The Atlantic.

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