Resident recalls interactions with CH police
in 2014, my partner and I were headed home on the East Shoreway when two packs of Cleveland Police cruisers zipped by us at frightening speed.
The following morning’s radio news told of more than 20 police cruisers chasing a speeding car into East Cleveland, ending up in a middle school parking lot, with an unarmed couple inside the car killed by 137 bullets. A newspaper photo of the windshield, with dozens of bullet holes in it, tagged with numbers, still haunts me.
Later, I read a newspaper story about Cleveland Heights police chasing a speeder far enough to record his license plate number. They arrested the speeder at his home. What a marked difference between the behaviors of the two police departments!
(A proviso to what follows: I am white. I don’t experience what a black person may experience with a CH police officer.)
I’ve had a variety of dealings with the Cleveland Heights Police Department, over 54 years.
In the late 1960s, hippies and Hell’s Angels moved into Coventry Village, to the dismay of my parents and many Cleveland Heights parents, city council members, and the police department.
In 1969, I worked on the street. Beat officers patrolled sidewalks two abreast; pedestrians moved around them.
I recall a man on the roof of a building at the corner of Lancashire and Coventry roads, watching people on the street with binoculars. Cops often issued jaywalking tickets.
In those days, about everyone was stressed out, including hippies and cops. Unpleasant altercations between young people, mostly white, and police, did occur on Coventry.
Between 1969 and 1978, something about Cleveland Heights police changed.
In 1978, a two-family house on the last unimproved road in Cleveland Heights, Rock Court, was my home. The city of Cleveland Heights Building Department condemned our homes. I became a leader of Save Rock Court. We were artists, so the houses were decorated, attracting visitors.
We had good relations with the beat cop, Mark Lovequist. In the summer of 1978, Lovequist came up to me on the sidewalk and said, “Lee, we know Munchkin is dealing,” then walked away.
Munchkin, the late David Harris, had sublet a suite from two artists who wanted to stay in a nearby single-family sublet for the summer. I was going to tell Munchkin what Lovequist had said, right away. When I saw him next, he was with a group of young travelers from Montreal, who were driving across the U.S.
Munchkin took them in for two nights. I decided to wait until they were gone to tell Munchkin that the police were on to his marijuana dealing. The visitors were quite active—when I needed protestors to walk a picket line in front of the old Pick-n-Pay, now Marc’s on Coventry, they enlisted!
The following morning, they were gone. Munchkin came to my apartment and sadly told me they’d taken all his money and his pot.
I thought, “Two problems solved.” Munchkin could not stay any longer, and the two artists returned.
Cleveland Heights is one of a very few small- and medium-sized cities in the U.S. with its own police academy. I think this makes a difference.
While not perfect, Cleveland Heights police remind me of the gentlemanly police of Amsterdam in 1973, when I saw a confrontation. A similar incident might have spun out of control if it occurred in the U.S.
Police training could use much attention across this nation. It is the well-trained police officers in places like Canada, the Netherlands, the U.K., and Cleveland Heights who need to lead the way through professional vigilance.
Lee Batdorff has been a Cleveland Heights resident since 1966.