Justice Department says Warren Police Department still in full compliance


By Ed Runyan

runyan@vindy.com

WARREN

In the first year after being deemed in full compliance with its settlement agreement with the U.S. Justice Department, the Warren Police Department “maintained full and faithful compliance with each provision of the agreement,” the agency wrote in a May 23 memo to Warren Law Director Greg Hicks.

The letter, from Timothy Mygatt, deputy chief of the special litigation section, says the Justice Department will again review the department for full compliance in 2018, the last year such monitoring is required.

The letter says the Justice Department, as part of its 2017 review, looked at all 68 use-of-force incidents involving officers from 2017 and 16 public complaints, “ensuring WPD thoroughly investigated these matters.”

The Justice Department also reviewed about 20 percent of the 151 “alerts” from the department’s Early Intervention System and looked at the department’s response to those alerts.

The system tracks incidents involving the department’s officers, such as injuries to prisoners, uses of force, amount of chemical spray used, to alert supervisory personnel to officers showing signs of possible unconstitutional policing.

The city signed the agreement, sometimes called a consent decree, in 2012 after years of investigation by the Justice Department into allegations of excessive force used against citizens by police officers, illegal strip searches and failure to fairly investigate and correct instances of police misconduct.

“The department’s training effectively instructs officers on key policy provisions, and WPD analyzes both its force training and policies to ensure that they are appropriate, based on factors such as emerging case law; officer feedback and trends in calls-for-service, use of force incidents and public complaints,” the memo says.

The letter commended the department for its “relationship with community stakeholders,” noting the effort police Chief Eric Merkel made to involve community members in a recent promotional examination for sergeant.

“These interactions have bridged the gap that once existed between the community and Warren police officers,” the letter says.

It also commended the department’s officers for using de-escalation tactics during encounters with the public. De-escalation involves waiting for a more appropriate moment to address a critical situation where possible by giving other officers time to come to the scene to assist.

The Justice Department provided a 34-page analysis of all the areas of concerned outlined in the consent decree, explaining the goal, an analysis of how the department is doing and technical assistance on how to best address areas needing improvement.

For instance, one goal is giving internal-affairs officers training on witness credibility, examination and interrogation of accused officers and other witnesses and identifying misconduct.

The report says Warren police internal affairs officers attended various external trainings focused on improving investigative skills, including two related to investigating civilian complaints and officer misconduct.

But the report asked the department to “take a closer look at the trend of complaints involving rudeness and unprofessionalism.”

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