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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE Team to return to investigate claims of police misconduct



Published: Sat, August 27, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The city will cooperate fully with the investigation, its law director reaffirmed.

By PETER H. MILLIKEN

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- Investigators from the U.S. Department of Justice will be here next week, making their third visit to the city this year to investigate allegations of police misconduct.

A team from DOJ's Office of Civil Rights in Washington, D.C., will be here Monday through Thursday, said Thomas S. Conley, president of the Warren-Trumbull Urban League. Team members are from DOJ's Civil Rights Litigation Department, he said.

Conley said he was expecting about five people to be on the team, whose members will talk to community residents and visit the police department. Their focus is on allegations concerning strip searches and excessive force, but the scope of the probe could be expanded to include racial profiling if enough evidence of that emerges, he said.

Those wishing to speak to the investigators concerning the activities of the city police department should call the urban league to make an appointment, Conley said.

"I'm not surprised about it because I know it's an ongoing investigation," Conley said of the team's third visit. "They would not be here again if something wasn't wrong" in the police department, he said.

"We will give them full and complete cooperation as always to help them review the matters of concern with the Warren Police Department," said city Law Director Greg Hicks. "We look forward to their suggestions and recommendations."

As a result of the DOJ probe, the city has increased its emphasis on annual training of police concerning search and seizure, the laws of arrest, and recent case law affecting police, Hicks said.

'Here to help'

"It's important for the community that the department be as professional and operate as efficiently as possible, and these folks are here to help us," Hicks said of the DOJ team members.

The DOJ team was last here about two months ago, Conley said. Its first visit here was early this year.

"I'm glad that they're here because, for the longest [time], the community has been crying foul," Conley said. "The U.S. Department of Justice heard that cry, so they're here based on evidence."

To his knowledge, Warren is the only city in the country where the DOJ is investigating the police department, Conley said.

"My hope is the facts come out and it's dealt with according to the law," he said.

Conley, who has long advocated a probe by an outside party into alleged civil rights violations, said he hopes the probe will be a catalyst for reforms in the city police department.

The DOJ team includes two former police chiefs, one from the Miami area and the other from the Los Angeles area, to help review police procedures. Two or three lawyers are also on the team, Hicks said.

As it did on the two previous visits, the team will give city officials a summary of its findings, activities and issues of concern before it departs, Hicks said.

A DOJ spokesman in Washington did not return a call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

milliken@vindy.com




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