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WARREN Search report is due today



Published: Wed, February 23, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Did Warren police break the law doing strip-searches?

WARREN -- A special prosecutor appointed to determine whether city police officers performed illegal strip-searches has completed his investigation and will announce his findings today.

Neither Greg Hicks, city law director, nor the special prosecutor, John Gibbons, would provide advance information on the findings.

The investigation began after the city settled several lawsuits in which police officers were accused of conducting illegal strip-searches. One plaintiff, LaShawn Ziegler of Warren, said he was strip-searched after he was pulled over for a traffic charge.

"When are the officers going to be punished?" he asked last year when the city announced plans for the outside investigation.

The city settled with Ziegler for $25,000, and in a one-year period spent at least $115,000 to settle such lawsuits.

Gibbons, the city law director in Cleveland Heights since 1987, is a partner in the law firm of Walter & amp; Haverfield. Hicks said he hired Gibbons to review the claims to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. He said he asked Gibbons to review four strip-search cases and determine whether charges should be filed.

Search warrant suggested

Trumbull County prosecutors have said that strip-searches should be done only in certain situations, and that a list of procedures, including, in many cases, getting a search warrant, must be followed.

Courts have ruled that conducting an illegal strip-search is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. An officer compounds the case by not writing a report on the search, which is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine.

Police Chief John Mandopoulos has said he doesn't think his officers had criminal intent in mind when they were performing strip-searches.

One Warren officer admitted routinely conducting body-cavity searches and strip-searches on male suspects even in minor crimes, according to an internal police investigation.

Hicks said he waited until all the strip-search civil lawsuits were settled before he sought the independent review by Gibbons.

Gibbons has billed the city $1,400 for his work so far, according to Dave Griffing, city auditor.

Gibbons said he has appraised the FBI about his investigation. FBI officials could not be reached to comment.




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