POLICE/COMMUNITY RELATIONS Councilman: Report will be ready in June

A diverse group formed after a civil rights review of the city police department.
WARREN -- Creating a plan to improve relationships between residents and police was a lot more work than members of the Community/Police Betterment Relations Group first thought.
Councilman Bob Dean, one of the group's leaders, said he and other members had hoped to release a report of their ideas in May. Dean said Tuesday that a report will not be ready this month.
"This was a lot larger than we thought," Dean said. "There is a lot we want to look at and since we are in no hurry we are going to take our time and have a good product when we are done."
Dean noted that the group hopes to have the report completed by mid-June.
"A lot of the members work full-time, some have two jobs, so we are trying to do this when everyone has some free time," Dean said.
The group was organized with hopes of identifying barriers to effective police-community relations and finding ways to improve the department's image.
The group is trying to get input from everyone, including students, business owners, teachers, prosecutors and law enforcement officers.
Why group was needed
The group was formed in the wake of a civil rights review by the U.S. Justice Department regarding Warren police practices and policies addressing strip-searches and the use of force.
The U.S. Justice Department began investigating the city police in January. Officials with the department have been to the city twice to meet with police department officials and residents.
The community group is not investigating allegations, Dean said.
"We are looking at ways to improve," Dean said.
He noted the group is not city-sponsored and will make whatever recommendations it feels is necessary.
One of the ideas the group is looking at is the possibility of forming a civilian/police academy so that residents can get an idea of police procedures.
"There are some things that police have to do to protect themselves and an average resident may not understand that and may take it the wrong way," Dean said. "If we can somehow educate the public on some procedures, like what an officer may do during a traffic stop, I think that can help."

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