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WARREN POLICE Deadline nears for turning over documents to U.S. government



Published: Mon, January 31, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The government wants to know about internal reviews.

WARREN -- A Feb. 9 deadline is approaching for the Warren Police Department to hand over documents to the U.S. Department of Justice on the use of force and on strip and body cavity searches.

The government wants names, dates and supporting data.

These details are being sought even as city officials insisted last year that the government is not reviewing specific incidents against specific officers, but standards and practices, policies and procedures.

Police Chief John Mandopoulos declined to comment on the level of compliance so far with the government's requests, which are outlined in a letter to him from Mark Masling, deputy chief in the DOJ's Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section.

Mayor Michael O'Brien, however, said details about police department organizational structure and general information were sent by Jan. 9 as requested -- and he foresees no problem meeting the Feb. 9 request for the more detailed information.

"Every day, time is set aside to fulfill their requests," O'Brien said. "Our intention is to be 100 percent compliant."

Masling said department rules do not allow him to comment about Warren's response to his letter.

Cooperation

The government in December 2004 started working with Warren and by Jan. 9 received a breakdown of the department's organizational structure, function of each unit and name of the officers by rank.

Now, the government wants to know about incident reports, complaints and investigations.

Materials dating from January 2003 include incident reports, arrest warrants, videotapes "or other documents evidencing a use of force," states Masling's letter, which said it was "the United States' first request for documents and information concerning this matter."

The government is further asking for files, data and complaints regarding the police department's strip and body cavity searches, and injuries to individuals or police from January 2002 to the present.

Also from January 2000, the government wants a list of all civil cases and lawsuits, criminal cases, indictments or arrests of -- or against -- the police department.

Finally the government wants to know about the department's internal reviews of use of force and strip and body cavity searches, the monitoring or auditing of such practices, any personnel recommended for discipline or termination, and training materials for new recruits and current officers.

Minority searches

Warren's minority leaders have pressed for the federal officials to review a handful of police cases, some of which involve searches of minorities stopped for traffic and other causes. A half-dozen men filed lawsuits alleging illegal strip searches; the city has spent $115,000 in the past year to settle them.

The DOJ's special litigation section is in charge of enforcing civil rights in cases of law enforcement misconduct. It enforces the police misconduct provision of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which authorizes the attorney general to seek relief for a pattern or practice of illegal conduct by law enforcement agencies, or agencies responsible for the administration of juvenile justice.

The section also enforces the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, which authorizes the attorney general to initiate civil litigation to remedy discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender or religion involving services by law enforcement agencies receiving financial assistance from the Department of Justice.

The section has successfully investigated and resolved allegations against police departments by taking a cooperative approach. But the attorney general is authorized to file lawsuits seeking court orders to reform police departments engaging in a pattern or practice of violating citizens' federal rights.




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