Police chief says report shows department’s success

WARREN – Police Chief Timothy Bowers said he’s confident the data he submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice on Thursday proves that his department is moving in the right direction.

The information highlights the number of calls Warren police answered in comparison to the number of arrests made and citations issued over the past six months. It also indicates how many times police used force.

“I think these numbers are a representation of the job we’re doing here,” Bowers said.

The data was compiled by police Lt. Dan Mason, the department’s internal affairs commander, and covers July 1, 2012, to Feb. 8, 2013.

An agreement between the city and the justice department requires Warren police to submit data to the federal policing agency periodically. That agreement also required the police department to develop new policies and procedures that addressed appropriate use of force.

The agreement came after an investigation into whether city police use of force was unconstitutional or unlawful. That settlement, filed with the U.S. District Court, was announced in January 2012.

The justice department found what it called reasonable cause to believe Warren police engaged “in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.”

The agreement to resolve the issue called for Warren police to develop and implement new use-of-force policies and protocols and systems to ensure that uses of force are documented; track citizen complaints and ensure they are investigated promptly; and provide officer training on the appropriate use of force.

In December 2004 – after several police brutality complaints were filed by people arrested by Warren police and after allegations of illegal police strip searches – the Department of Justice announced it would work with Warren to analyze department operations by reviewing department policies and procedures, training and educational practices.

The justice department’s investigation involved an in-depth review of police documents and included interviews with patrolmen and community members.

By the time the justice department announced the settlement a year ago, Bowers said then, ”We’re a different police department. The infrastructure, the police department’s infrastructure in 2004, has been rewritten.”

Mason said last week that he expected to see an increased number of use-of-force incidents by police because the threshold was lowered. For example, in the past, city police might not have documented drawing a weapon at a traffic stop as use of force.

“But now we do,” Mason said. “And many things that weren’t necessarily considered use of force in the past, for example anything beyond resisting arrest, is now documented. It could be something as simple as taking someone’s arm if they pull away as you’re handcuffing them.”

Of the 26,368 calls for service answered by the city police department over the past six months, 1,476 – or 5.6 percent – resulted in arrests. Additionally, 1,400 citations were issued.

Of the total service calls, some form of reportable force was used by a Warren police officer 37 times, amounting to 1.3 percent of the time over the six-month period.

Twenty complaints were made against officers, and were investigated.