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POLICE PROBE U.S. officials scrutinize Warren cops



Published: Tue, May 3, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



A defense attorney met with the federal officials Monday.

By PEGGY SINKOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

WARREN -- U.S. Justice Department officials want to know more about city police officers, including what they look like.

The federal officials, who began investigating the police department in January, sent another request to the city last week asking for additional information.

"They are asking for pictures of all the police officers, reports on all the K-9 handlers and additional internal affairs complaints," said Jim Sanders, an assistant city law director. "They also want any nonprivileged materials we have in regards to Atty. John Gibbons."

Gibbons, of Cleveland, was hired by Law Director Greg Hicks in September to investigate whether any city police officers should face criminal charges stemming from allegations of illegal strip-searches. Gibbons said in February that some laws were violated but the statute of limitations to file charges had expired.

Sanders said the federal officials have asked for all the information by Friday.

Several federal officials returned to town Monday and were expected to meet with a defense attorney, the leader of the Warren-Trumbull Urban League and several citizens who said they were victims.

Tom Conley, director of the Warren-Trumbull Urban League, said the officials are expected to be in the area for two days.

Attorney's meeting

Atty. Gilbert Rucker, who has represented several clients who have filed lawsuits alleging police misconduct, met with federal officials Monday.

"I wanted to meet with them so that I could give them my clients perspective on the matter," Rucker said.

Rucker is representing a 14-year-old black boy who was arrested by police officers who said he swore at them. A juvenile court judge later dismissed the charge. Rucker also represented Willie Summerlin, a black man who said police grabbed his genitals during a search. Summerlin had been stopped for going through a red light; his case was settled out of court.

Justice Department officials spent three days here last month. At that time, they met with current and former city officials and some members of the police department.

Mayor Michael O'Brien and Doug Franklin, city safety-service director, said Saturday that they have no plans to meet with the officials this time.

After the last visit, O'Brien said officials told him the city needs to work on the citizen complaint system, but he declined to give specifics.

Police Chief John Mandopoulos did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Eric Holland, spokesman for the Justice Department, could not be reached for comment.

U.S. Justice Department officials appear to be concerned about strip-searches by city police officers, according to Fred Harris, the city's former safety-service director.

Harris has said he met with officials last month and the majority of questions he was asked dealt with the strip-search allegations.

sinkovich@vindy.com




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