DOJ: Warren Police Department making strides to fix use-of-force issues

Warren Police Generic

WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – The Warren Police Department has met the terms of its settlement agreement with the Department of Justice.

This was announced Thursday after the DOJ sent a letter to the city. The DOJ says the Warren Police Department must maintain compliance for two consecutive years before it can leave DOJ control, but it is taking positive steps toward that.

In 2012, the DOJ said Warren police officers sometimes used excessive force when making arrests. The agency got involved and found 40 areas needing improvement, mostly the Warren Police Department’s use-of-force policy and reporting.

READ: Letter from Department of Justice to city of Warren

As a result, changes were made to policing.

The DOJ then reviewed the department’s activity in 2016 and determined that the police department thoroughly investigated all use-of-force matters.

The letter says the community conveyed that Police Chief Merkel has been open to community feedback and has been committed to reform.

In 2013, there were 86 use-of-force incidents and 29 community complaints due to officers’ actions. In 2016, officers engaged in 41 use-of-force incidents and received 13 complaints — a reduction of more than 50 percent.

The DOJ also noted a positive interaction between a Warren police officer and kids in the community, which garnered media attention. 

“We encourage WPD to continue to engage meaningfully with the community and seek input from stakeholders on local policing strategies,” the DOH letter read.

City Law Director Greg Hicks said the police department was able to meet the DOJ’s standards faster than any other police department in the nation, making Warren a model for policing. He called the decision a monumental occasion.