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WARREN POLICE Chief says he's unaware of brutality



Published: Fri, January 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Urban League boss says change won't come overnight.

By AMANDA C. DAVIS

and PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Police Chief John Mandopoulos says that he's willing to work with members of the Warren-Trumbull Coalition to improve relationships between minorities and officers in his department but that he's unaware of any recent allegations of the use of excessive force.

The coalition said Thursday that in December there were two cases of police brutality and that one person had to be treated at a local hospital.

Thomas Conley, president and CEO of the Warren-Trumbull County Urban League, said the people involved filed a complaint with the police department.

"I checked and I had others check and we could not find any complaints that were filed in December," Mandopoulos said. "How can I respond to something that I know nothing about? We don't have any information on this."

The coalition declined to give details about the cases.

U.S. official to arrive: Conley said that an official with the U.S. Justice Department is scheduled to return to Warren next week to discuss the matter.

"I am planning to meet with the Justice Department official next week," Mandopoulos said. "I was surprised when a press conference was called [by the coalition Thursday] because I thought the Justice Department had asked us not to do that."

The coalition was formed in the summer to address alleged racial profiling and use of excessive force.

The Rev. Larry Graham-Johnson, associate pastor of First Presbyterian Church, said that he thinks all people are biased to some extent but that we need to learn how to live among one another.

He added that he's worked in south Florida and Chicago and that "racial and economic bias has been here for decades," and it will take more than a few meetings to reverse.

Conley agreed, saying, "This is a process; it's not going to happen overnight."

The problem is not with the entire police department, Conley said, but a few officers who seem to make a habit of using excessive force.

Doing research: Ron Brown, with the local chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, said he's been doing research to find out how other cities are dealing with such issues.

Though he's never had a problem with Warren police, Brown said he's known people who have moved out of the area because of unfair treatment by cops.

He said he's interested to know how other cities handle data collection from incidents and wants to find out about other cities that have laws regarding racial profiling.

The coalition will make recommendations to Warren's police department as meetings continue, Brown said.

Fear among blacks: The Rev. Alton Merrell Sr., president of Trumbull County Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and pastor at New Jerusalem Fellowship, said there is a fear in the black community of the police department.

Correcting the problem is going to take time, he said, explaining the coalition will likely grow so there's a stronger voice speaking out for the people.

Brown said it's not just police that blacks have a problem with, and he suggested that a better name for racial profiling is "bias policing."

Holding a copy of the book "Driving While Black," Conley explained that racial profiling exists in malls and other places.

The seven-member coalition was formed after the Justice Department first came to town. Mayor Hank Angelo also conducted community breakfasts to address minority issues.

Controversial official: Conley also said he supports Fred Harris, the city's safety-service director, who is black and has been butting heads with police in the last few weeks.

Officers say Harris shows up on the scene of some arrests and disturbances and gets in the way of police matters. He says officers shouldn't mind if they're doing their job right.

Conley said in some cases, it's possible that Harris might be right when he says officers don't like him because he's black.

"He's intelligent enough to know he's not a policeman," Conley said.

davis@vindy.comsinkovich@vindy.com




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