Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals' private police mostly cite Black people, report finds

Three private police departments affiliated with Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals and a local nonprofit group in Cleveland have disproportionately cited and charged Black people, most commonly for traffic violations or such misdemeanors as trespassing and jaywalking, according to an investigative report from ProPublica

Cleveland Clinic's private force has 153 armed police officers who not only handle disturbances within the health system, but make arrests outside the facility and stop motorists on city streets. University Hospitals and the nonprofit economic development group University Circle also have small, private police departments that operate in the same manner. 

ProPublica reviewed court data and arrest records, which found private police have issued more than 8,000 criminal charges and traffic citations against 5,600 people in Cleveland since 2015. Nearly 75 percent of people who were ticketed or arrested are Black, a disproportionately high percentage compared to the number of Black people who work or visit the medical area, according to ProPublica

In total, 90 percent of people charged by University Hospitals and University Circles' police forces are Black. This figure was closer to 70 percent for those charged by Cleveland Clinic's force. 

In a statement emailed to Becker's, Cleveland Clinic said ProPublica's report "is not an accurate representation of the facts" and that the health system reviews data annually to "ensure there are no concerns for biased policing."

Cleveland Clinic also said its officers undergo annual training to identify unconscious bias,  and promote inclusion and diversity, and that the force aims to recruit a diverse group of applicants reflective of the communities it serves. 

University Hospitals told Becker's that it's creating a civilian review committee to "enhance oversight" of the police department and "reflect our commitment to equitable treatment, social justice and safety." 

The health system also said its officers get de-escalation training, and that the force has only issued citations to 260 people since 2018, which equates to about three people cited per officer annually. 

James Repicky, chief of the University Circle police, told ProPublica that traffic in the medical area mainly comes from nearby communities that are predominantly Black. He said officers "are not looking at color, but basically trying to slow people down."

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