University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name DOJ Investigation of Lorain Police Department PN-OH-0009
Docket / Court docket unknown ( No Court )
State/Territory Ohio
Case Type(s) Policing
Case Summary
On November 20, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice launched this investigation, prompted by allegations that police officers in Lorain, Ohio had used excessive force. The investigation, pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, focused on ... read more >
On November 20, 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice launched this investigation, prompted by allegations that police officers in Lorain, Ohio had used excessive force. The investigation, pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141, focused on determining whether there were systematic violations of the Constitution or laws of the United States in the use of force by members of the Lorain Police Department (LPD).

Specifically, the DOJ investigated whether police officers regularly used excessive force during routine public safety activities and whether police officers regularly subjected women to sexual abuse while on duty.

At the time, the LPD was already involved in a series of internal investigations and lawsuits, including the trials of two officers who were accused of pursuing inappropriate relationships with women they met while on duty. Other investigations of officers included allegations ranging from arriving to work drunk, to dumping guns down a sewer, and other domestic issues that have reached the court system.

The DOJ reviewed LPD policies and procedures and conducted interviews with Lorain officials, LPD command staff, a cross-section of LPD line officers and supervisors, representatives of the Fraternal Order of Police, community leaders, and other citizens. Along with expert consultants, the DOJ conducted an on-site investigative tour of LPD. The DOJ met with City and LPD officials to discuss LPD's responses to public allegations made against LPD and LPD' s response to the recommendations of our expert consultants.

On May 16, 2010, the LPD released a report including the steps to address officer’s excessive use of force. Those included development of a new mission statement and core values, changes to the use of force policy, creation of a use of force form that is reviewed and signed by the chain of command, new training and Taser electric stun guns for officers.

On May 16, 2012, the DOJ closed its investigation into allegations of excessive force and sexual abuse by members of the LPD, concluding that while those issues existed in the past, there was no longer a pattern of such misconduct by officers.

Nevertheless, the DOJ recommended that LPD promptly take the following actions: to implement policy and training consistent with the technical assistance, and to investigate and remedy command deficiencies that permitted LPD's past use of excessive force.

In its 30-page technical assistance report, the DOJ suggested the LPD to implement policies to prevent future problems. It included recommended remedial measures and technical assistance in the following areas: (1) use of force; (2) complaints of officer misconduct; (3) supervisory oversight; (4) early intervention system; (5) unlawful searches, seizures, and arrests; (6) body-cavity searches and strip searches; and (7) officer training.

The suggestions ranged from weighing pepper spray canisters to monitor how often officers are using them to streamlining the department’s use-of-force policy, which was referred to by Lorain police as “aggression response.” The report also suggested that officers should begin writing use-of-force reports for all instances that “go beyond un-resisted handcuffing,” including whenever an officer draws and aims his firearm. Technical Assistance Report Re: Lorain Police Department (May 16, 2012).

The DOJ noted that the LPD should increase the level of review for use-of-force incidents, including conducting more thorough investigations. The DOJ also recommended improving the LPD complaint process, which simultaneously required all department employees to assist residents in making complaints, but only allowed supervisors to hand out the complaint packages.

The report noted there have been allegations that residents had tried to complain about officers and that “LPD failed to respond to such allegations,” leading to the officers committing similar misconduct again. Technical Assistance Report Re: Lorain Police Department (May 16, 2012). There were also accusations that police dispatchers may have discouraged complaints against officers. Finally, the DOJ recommended that the LPD develop comprehensive, ongoing training programs for current LPD officers.

The DOJ stated that if these following actions were not remedied, the weaknesses in LPD' s police practices could lead to a pattern or practice of constitutional violations, and could undermine public trust in the police department.

The case is closed.

Ginny Lee - 04/06/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Unreasonable search and seizure
Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals and Timekeeping
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Reporting
Training
Warrant/order for search or seizure
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Aggressive behavior
Assault/abuse by staff
Communication skills
Excessive force
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Inadequate citizen complaint investigations and procedures
Incident/accident reporting & investigations
Pattern or Practice
Pepper/OC spray
Record-keeping
Restraints : chemical
Restraints : physical
Search policies
Staff (number, training, qualifications, wages)
Strip search policy
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 14141
Defendant(s) Lorain Police Department
Plaintiff Description This is a DOJ Investigation
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Mixed
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement Voluntary Dismissal
Case Closing Year 2012
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Data examining the Department of Justice's civil rights investigations of local and state police departments
Marshall Project
Date: Jan. 17, 2017
By: Tom Meagher (Marshall Project)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  The Civil Rights Division’s Pattern and Practice Police Reform Work: 1994-Present
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  An Interactive Guide to the Civil Rights Division’s Police Reforms
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Date: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
Date: 2014
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program Faculty)
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Jail Strip-Search Cases: Patterns and Participants
http://law.duke.edu/journals/lcp
Date: Spring 2008
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University in St. Louis Faculty)
Citation: 71 Law & Contemp. Problems 65 (2008)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Department of Justice Review Recommendations/Actions Taken
PN-OH-0009-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 05/16/2010
Technical Assistance Report
PN-OH-0009-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 05/16/2012
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Findings Letter Re: Lorain Police Department
PN-OH-0009-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 05/16/2012
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Plaintiff's Lawyers Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)
PN-OH-0009-0002

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