Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pele Smith Sues the Lorain PD.

Researching use of force by the Lorain Police Department. Most of what I'm seeing fits the Justice Department's 2012 findings that there was a serious problem in the past, but it began to taper off after 2008, when the DoJ investigation began but before they released their final report.
There is, however, this case, where a guy named Pele Smith was stopped for jaywalking, but wound up having his face slammed into a patrol car hard enough to crack the windshield. As his lawyer notes, this fits one of the patterns mentioned in the DoJ report: excessive force for completely trivial stops.
The case has fits another pattern you see a lot: Smith eventually plead guilty (perhaps part of a plea bargain) to a bunch of charges involving resisting arrest and obstructing police business, without any mention of an underlying crime that might have triggered the stop to begin with. The police claim he tried to hide drugs by swallowing them, but no actual drug charges are filed.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Showing Up For Racial Justice North East Ohio has a project going where we study use of force policies for area police departments. I've been assigned the Lorain PD.

Dear Chief Rivera,

I am with SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice, Northeast Ohio Chapter), and we are conducting research into use of force policies at local police departments, in conjunction with the efforts of the Cleveland Community Police Commission. On April 29, 2015 the governor's Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations released its final report with a number of recommendations including that "all law enforcement agencies adopt, at a minimum, policies including, but not limited to, the use of deadly force, with the goal of enhancing the protection of all lives".  Subsequently, the Ohio Collaborative Community Police Advisory Board was created to establish more detailed guidelines concerning use of force as well as the establishment of a certification process for local law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

Searching the LPD website, I was not able to find a publicly available use of force policy. I did find the 2012 Justice Department letter to the city and police department, and the accompanying Technical Assistance Report. I was very glad to see that it found that the LPD did not have a continuing "pattern or practice of use of excessive force." However, I also saw that it made a lot of recommendations for changes to section 4 of your Standard Operating Policies and Procedures on "Aggression Response."

I am requesting that you provide us a copy of your policies regarding the use of force. I am also interested in learning if it has been updated in accordance with the Justice Department's recommendations.  This information will be quite helpful in reviewing the use of force policies of Northeast Ohio police departments.

I look forward to hearing from you.


J. Robert Loftis