WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – The Warren Police Department is one step closer to getting out from under the federal government’s microscope.
Warren leaders are celebrating official word that the continuous monitoring of the police department by the Department of Justice will soon be ending.
“This is not an end but rather a beginning, a beginning of continued policing in the 21st century by the Warren Police Department,” said Warren Law Director Greg Hicks.
In 2012, the city and DOJ entered into a settlement agreement, even though the government’s investigation into alleged excessive force by WPD officers dates all the way back to 2004.
“It’s been a lengthy process and what I want to emphasize, I believe, in my opinion, that we’re a better law enforcement agency as a result of having gone through that process,” said Warren Mayor Doug Franklin.
Under the 2012 order, the city agreed to reform the force, specifically when it came to policies, use of force, civilian complaints, management and supervision and training.
“The police officers want a better police department and that’s why they’ve embraced these changes,” said Warren Police Chief Eric Merkel.
“This has made us a model of policing not just in northeast Ohio, not just in the state of Ohio, but throughout the nation,” said Warren’s Director of Public Safety and Service Enzo Cantalamessa.
“I think the biggest gauge of effectiveness is your community trusting you, and we have every reason to believe that the vast majority do,” said Warren Assistant Law Director Traci Timko Sabau.
The department came into full and faithful compliance in 2017 but had to maintain that status for two back-to-back years.
Just last week, city leaders were informed that a joint motion to terminate the agreement was filed in federal court and that the DOJ is confident WPD will continue its efforts to provide effective and constitutional policing.
“We’re moving to advance and improve, to not strive for mediocrity in any way. So you can’t ask for anything more than that,” said Friendship Baptist Church Pastor Dr. Avon Odom.
A judge still needs to make a final ruling on that motion.