Case: DOJ Investigation of Lorain Police Department

No Court

Filed Date: Nov. 20, 2008

Closed Date: May 16, 2012

Clearinghouse coding complete

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 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 whe…

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.

Summary Authors

Ginny Lee (4/6/2017)


Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Attorneys(s) for Plaintiff

Smith, Jonathan Mark (District of Columbia)

Documents in the Clearinghouse

Document

Department of Justice Review Recommendations/Actions Taken

May 16, 2010

May 16, 2010

Findings Letter/Report

Findings Letter Re: Lorain Police Department

May 16, 2012

May 16, 2012

Findings Letter/Report

Technical Assistance Report

May 16, 2012

May 16, 2012

Monitor/Expert/Receiver Report

Resources

Docket

Last updated May 11, 2022, 8 p.m.

Docket sheet not available via the Clearinghouse.

Case Details

State / Territory: Ohio

Case Type(s):

Policing

Key Dates

Filing Date: Nov. 20, 2008

Closing Date: May 16, 2012

Case Ongoing: No

Plaintiffs

Plaintiff Description:

This is a DOJ Investigation

Plaintiff Type(s):

U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff

Public Interest Lawyer: No

Filed Pro Se: No

Class Action Sought: No

Class Action Outcome: Not sought

Defendants

Lorain Police Department, City

Defendant Type(s):

Law-enforcement

Case Details

Causes of Action:

34 U.S.C. § 12601 (previously 42 U.S.C. § 14141)

Constitutional Clause(s):

Unreasonable search and seizure

Special Case Type(s):

Out-of-court

Availably Documents:

Injunctive (or Injunctive-like) Relief

Outcome

Prevailing Party: Mixed

Nature of Relief:

Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement

Source of Relief:

None

Form of Settlement:

Voluntary Dismissal

Content of Injunction:

Discrimination Prohibition

Develop anti-discrimination policy

Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols

Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention

Reporting

Goals (e.g., for hiring, admissions)

Warrant/order for search or seizure

Training

Issues

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