Friday, August 24, 2007

Two Department of Justice Investigations of Police Brutality Pattern And Practice in Two Eastern Ohio Cities

The One thing that two eastern Ohio cities have in common with Attorney
Richard Olivito is the fact that the U.S. Justice Department's Special Litigation unit has, within a decade of each other, opened formal DOJ civil rights litigation "pattern and practice" investigations into the same towns, along the eastern border and rust belt region of Ohio. In both cities and towns, Mr. Olivito
had opened a small solo office law practice in their regions a few years prior.

Does this have anything to do with attorney Richard Olivito and his unique prior solo law practice in the region?

While the entire history of how the Steubenville consent decree would need a full length book
to properly detail its account, and while it was a work in progress of numerious local activists, citizens and especially the work of Attorney James McNamara of Columbus, Ohio thru years
of effort in the late 1970's and 1980's, it was attorney Richard A. Olivito and his unique
contribution who met with the Department of Justice officials in Washington D.C.
after a very unique conversation took place early in 1995 with a deputy attorney general of the Washington D.C. DOJ office on an unrelated topic which led to the formation of the
department's first serious inquiry and review of the City of Steubenville's police department, a
first such full scale investigation under the then brand new federal law which John Conyers and
others had passed in Congress under the Clinton era.

The city of Steubenville's consent decree finalized in August of 1997, was the second actual consent decree in the U.S. coming immediately afterthe Pittsburgh Pa consent decree in April of 1997.

However, even D.C. officials acknowledge the City of Steubenville consent decree, as noted in the Human Rights Watch report noted in the LINKS on this page, was actually the first fully investigated by the Department of Justice Officials and lawyers from the Civil Rights Division Special Litigation unit lawyers in D.C. in the country.

This particular investigation became the national 'flagship' or model for the next several serious Special Litigation unit divisions central investigations into the New York and L.A department and it set the standards for what was to follow in both the Clinton era Attorney
General's office and the start of the Bush administration's era.

The 2004 to present Warren pattern and pratice investigation is a complex matter but resulted from interested citizens and key leaders contacting the department as a result of some of the more eggregarious cases of police abuse occuring inside this sister city of Northeastern Ohio.

The most notable case among them was the Lyndal Kimble excessive force case which drew national attention the serious and deep and historical problem of pattern and practice police misconduct towards the city resident of Warren, Ohio, a town rich in history and northern civil rights history and a post WWII industrial center and Dephi GM plant central location.

The town is very close to Niles Ohio, the birthplace of President McKinley and also is a sister city to Youngstown Ohio, the notorious steel and auto related manufacturing center and hub of the Mahoning Valley.

Warren has fallen on hard times in recent decades and the police force was exhibiting a particular strain of deeply racist and divisive approaches by a portion of its pd towards it minority and poor white popluation.

[The town has been a center of KKK related activity in the past as well and the same made
it into a CBS 48 hour special documentary in the late 1990's. ]

However, after Richard Olivito was retained by Lyndal Kimble, in the summer of 2003, just as the video tape showing the severe use of excessive force by three white local warren police officers was becoming a national news story, he met immmediately with U.S. Department officials in D.C. and requested their review and attention to the entire scope and depth of the Warren "narrative" as the Kimble high intensity media exposure revealed.

Within a year of this meeting and after several follow up contact calls and the contacts by others from the community, and sometimes after another critical incident and a Cleveland independent newspaper, called the Cleveand Scene Magazine did a cover story on the Warren police and richard olivito's past history with these civil rights issues, [See Link to Cleveland Scene Magazine article entitled "The Blue Mob" by Aina Hunter, an award winning two part article] Warren became the fifth city in Ohio to be subjected to the pattern and practice Special Litigation unit's attention for its police department's administrative allowances and failures in correcting an apparent ongoing and well document history of
serious pattern and practice police misconduct issues.

Mr. Olivito has litigated several cases out of Warren during this relevant period sine 2003.
His prior legal work has paved the way for several important legal victories and other civil rights case settlements arising out of Warren and the region in the Northern District of Ohio United States District Court.

The Justice department is still investingating the Warren police department and has issued a prelimlinary report, highly critical in various areas of its lengthy detailed report which demonstrates clearly that Warren police department has operated in a backwards manner for years, and appropriate measures are being both recommended and monitored for its improvement in how the City police are dealing with and inter-acting with its own citizens.

The story in Warren is far from over. The same can be said of the City of Steubenville
[They both are similiar cities and have been in the past, ironically, high school football rivals in the heyday of such football play. ]

Both are former strong based northern steel towns and have boasted of strong ethnic neighborhoods which have seen a great decline in the past twenty years as the regional economy underwent its decline and social change.

Today, both of these cities have certain rays of hope occuring economically within or near them. Warren like Steubenville however, while professing to be now placing a 'better foot forward' in how it is dealing with its police department's treatment of its citizens still maintains its own official and legal denial of any past wrongdoing, just like Steubenville does, even to this day despite the nation's longest consent decree ever.

They are both still mired in a constant questionable legal posturing inside the regional district courts of Ohio, both south and north, which belies their real veiws and intentions towards the serious issue of how such historical police methods are not being fully and openly
addressed within these significant regional cities along the eastern Borders of Ohio.

If southeastern and middle north eastern Ohio is to progress at all, as a viable relevant and up to date modern open part of the country, and culture, its must overcome not only its distressing economic factors but its more pressing social problems of some of the inner city neighborhoods;

It is this pervasive denial of prior serious human rights violations which has also contributed to the social and moral decline of these cities; this issue must be affored its complete and open airing and 'cycling' of the real "narrative" of those citizens who have been seriously and geniunely abused by such local officials and government actors, in a nation which professes a better way and a legal system sworn to uphold the rights of the individual against unreasonable and illegal and unlawful systemic human rights abuse.

Only by coming to terms with the serious official past and their abuse cycle which was fostered upon many citizens in each of these cities, can the future truly become brighter for not only the city residents themselves but also for the city administrative and officials as well as their communities as whole.

There needs to be a confessional moment in order for the past to be healed from. The DOJ
investigations and consent decrees ought to serve as a basis for just that. If instead they became yet another "bump on the road" towards official cover ups and denials, then the process is for naught.

The process is a long and ardous one. We have been fortunate to become a part of the process and hopefully that contribution will not be either diminished nor held in contempt by those in powerful political and legal circles both in the region and the state and beyond.

Only in an open and public manner, can these regions truly begin to put the past behind them and allow the fresh air of a reformation come to their areas. Doing the right thing, by the many citizens who have been seroius violated in their human and constitutional rights as American citizens, these cities will have to come to terms both with their policing policies of the past and do the hard work of any one who has to change his or her life, much like any addicted or abuser has had to do among and within their own personal life.

Just as the 'reformed' alcholic can not have a single drink or the journey to the fallen state begins anew and often with even more serious consequence, so it is, with the abuse syndrome of entire cities who have been "caught in the act" so to speak; by either the first- of- its- kind- in- U.S. -history special litigation investigations or as in Warren, Ohio, when the Kimble video played so hot and heavy on the national media rotation for weeks and for months, if not a year in the Cleveland and youngstown Ohio major media outlets and market with all of its intended consequence.

The truth about civil liberties of Americans being constantly exposed to less than american traditions and ideals as becomes this present modern sense of the term and as those contained in teh nations' founding and then reconstruction era documents, is something that can become either a bellweather issue for the next generation of Americans and their political and legal and social leaders or it will become the albatross of the unfinished work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and others who understood this kind of institutional local serious legal problem can not be allowed to exist within this present modern world and context, if this country and nation are to be perceived as moving beyond the present predicament it is perceived within by many both within the United States and in fact, from many nations and cultures and simple citizens of the World itself.

[The Human Rights Watch orgs special report "Sheilded From Justice" ought to be required reading of every citizen and or student who considers the nature and consequence of freedom. [Its part of the links added to this page. It clearly demonstrates the nations' addiction to police abuse and often times half hearted efforts at reform.]

Human rights was supposed to be our birthright and our national contribution to the history of the world, if not the modern equivalent to a national blessing bestowed on all who want to look to America and its heartland for a better world and a better way of life and in simple terms freedom from oppression and persecution and unwarranted governmental harrassment.

If this kind of federal attention does not cause these cities and their legal interests and their advisors to really take an accounting of their actions, then little will become of the future of these cities and these regions except the reputations will fall away not unlike their manufactoring base has in recent decades.

There may be deeper rationals and societial reasons for this kind of thing happening. But what concerns people and advocates like Mr. Olivito, the messengers and the advocates may not be alowed to see the "promised land" of freedom.

Beyond this, the very nature of the opposing forces and their large interests which are fighting the legal advocacy of such potential changes, are in reality opposing not him or those who would bring such things to light, but the historical march of the civil rights era and its unique contribution to our modern world.

If such things are allowed to continue, no matter what window dressing or "appeasing" official commentary is applied today, by any department or any number of government officials, anywhere, state, local or federal, there will not be a true resolution of the citizen's pent up rage and anger and frustration from such patterned and significant and simply horrific tales of government abuse of these cities citizens.

With this present continued half hearted effort at reform and these cities quasi if not direct legal denial of such pattern and practice constitutional police violations, there will be a continued moral decay which sets into their towns and cities and departments.

The populations of this region if not the state and beyond, as a whole, will feel this impact.

Those interests who oppose such individuals who have worked at times, day and night for years to bring such things to light and to justice, are not actually opposing an individual as much as they are opposing the right, the true and the real geniune needs of many americans who not only have suffered horrible instances of unwarranted and baseless and unlawful
government action but also have attempted to find someone who would either believe them
or simply provide a voice for them.

These politically connected but socially retarded interests are not for change much less for making the constitutional methods and ideals of our modern notion of human rights actually real and applicable to every member of our distress areas of this nation, even when these areas gave this nation so much in terms of its hard work, its backbone and its character as a union oriented culture which was designed by nature to look out for the common man and woman.

A nation, which long makes it impossible for the little people to not share in the blessings of liberty and the freedom of the many, but particular the vulnerable and the distressed and the nation which makes it nearly impossible for the voice of the voiceless to be heard, emanating not from some third world crises like Dalfur or Latin America, but right inisde our heartland, is a nation not long for a major reckoning with its own lack of moral purpose and consistency.

We have a date with destiny, in the United States, and it probably is NOT simply because of what we have outside the borders of this country, but within the same and even within the northern cities of this nation, like Steubenville, Youngstown and Warren, Ohio.

This is the type of historical moral significance of what is truly at stake. It is something hardly perceived if only half understood today.

But the same is absolutely critical for this nation as a whole, to consider these types of issues as paramount to the entire social and legal fabric of this nation, if we are to not only be perceived in the world as a consistent culture, as a people, despite our present national leader's failures to truly put into flesh and practice, what we profess with our mouths and give allegiance to as a society based on something called the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, and wherein we're a society so given to praise the first responders and those in the military services and social sciences of our modern day culture.

With the benefits of such positions and deep traditions, comes the responsibility to be true to american values and towards american citizens of all classes.

This appears to have what motivated the Congress in 1993-4 to enable such pattern and practice legislation to move forward and become law in the Clinton era, in Washington.

I am very proud to have been able by almost historical accident and by the awful grace of God to become part of the initial efforts to make real on the promise contained within such a historical legislative move forward in the fundamental civil rights enforcement of this nation in our time, along with the dedicated efforts of others.

Yet, we must be consistent to our better and higher values enshrined and taught and even learned in the very rough and tough school of American history itself, both in terms of the early American history right up thru the present.

With this blog, we can and hope these police issues and these special efforts and lawsuits and even the federal investigations related to the citizen's efforts will enable us to "get their stories" out, to the public and to those who are willing to listen in both the courts and the academics and the soceity at large.

As the name is itself in Italian culture, Attorney Richard Olivito is unique to southern Ohio and to Northeastern Ohio in regards to the Warren/Youngstown region as far as bringing his voice to the struggle for human rights within the notion of modern policing of all American citizens.

For doing this, he has come under very heavy critique both in the past and strong and serious legal scrutiny by many in and out of the legal profession and the policing societies and groups of this region and state today.

Whether he will be able to continue this work inside the field of his "chosen profession" is something others will decide in part, for him. However, despite the same, he will continue to give a voice to the voiceless and the poor and those oppressed populations in the particlar manner done by his strong stance on this issue in such rust belt cities and towns across this state and even in other areas of the country,

His continuance of doing this, only depends on whether or not God gives him continued protection and health and this particular ability to make these issues known to those "who have ears to hear"and by this, those interested citizens and observers and hopefully a watching and listening world will come to know not only something signficant about our present social and legal culture but that of a key but often overlooked aspect of today's modern civil rights movement itself in the united States.

Again, please note the Human Rights Watch's report, the article by Aina Hunter and even the original DOJ City of Steubenville consent decree which are both listed on this blog page's links
as noted above. There will be more postings as they become availabe on the site.

We hope to also soon post the documentary created in 1999 by Geraldo Rivera called "black and blue" on the federal consent decrees in Pittsburgh and Steubenville and the Wolf Blitzer CNN special edition world news tonight story on the city of Steubenville's consent decree done in the same year. Both are still available as treatments on the consequence of such police consent decrees in United State Department of Justice modern enforcement history.

No comments: