By Ed Runyan
Council members Cheryl Saffold and Helen Rucker will attend this morning’s Warren Civil Service Commission meeting to ask that a test for police officers be delayed to provide more time for minority and female candidates to be recruited.
The test is scheduled for Jan. 21 to provide the Warren Police Department with a new list to hire from as departmental vacancies arise. Three police officers are expected to retire this year, and there is no current list, Police Chief Tim Bowers said.
Saffold says the city has five minority police officers and four female officers out of 66, and she has been hearing that many of the minority officers are eligible to retire in the next couple of years. Saffold said she isn’t aware of any minority officers who will retire this year.
“In the near future, due to anticipated retirements, there may be only one African-American police officer in the city of Warren,” Saffold said in a press release.
The prospect of having so few minority police officers in a city such as Warren is troubling, Saffold said, especially considering the police department’s history regarding civil rights and minorities.
The city paid out-of-court settlements to at least five men who filed civil suits against the department starting in 2003 regarding strip searches by Warren police officers. The five who settled with the city were Adam Carson, LaShawn Ziegler, Dominic Gambone, Clarence Clay and Brandon Rogers, according to Vindicator files.
The U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Civil Rights conducted an investigation of the department in 2005 regarding strip-searches and excessive use of force.
In March 2006, the Justice Department ordered the department to ensure it was complying with its use-of-force policies, retrain officers on its body-cavity and strip-search policies, implement a better procedure for receiving and investigating citizen complaints, and improve community relations.
A police lieutenant was reprimanded in 2009 for calling two black men a racial epithet while off duty, and a patrolman was reprimanded in 2010 for violating the police department’s use-of-force policy by ordering brothers age 7, 9 and 10 to the ground at gunpoint in March 2009 in their backyard.
The officer suspected the boys, who were black, were committing a robbery.
“A minority officer might have handled that situation differently,” Saffold said.
The city has a minority population of 38 percent, Bowers said last week. The department’s percentage of minorities is 7.5 percent. Bowers said last week the only type of minority or female recruitment in place for the department is “word of mouth.”
Saffold said she’s willing to provide assistance with minority and female recruitment, such as advertising the test on local radio stations that have large minority audiences, at colleges, police academies and churches.