US Justice Department to review California city's police

AP News
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Posted: Apr 14, 2015 7:09 PM

SAN DIEGO (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department said Tuesday that it will review hiring, training and oversight in a wide-ranging review of the Calexico Police Department, a step city officials said would help restore public confidence.

City and federal officials outlined the scope of the review amid an FBI investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing by officers in the border city of 40,000 people about 120 miles east of San Diego. At least six officers on a force of about 35 have been fired, Mayor John Moreno said.

The city requested the review amid added scrutiny of police policies and practices nationwide after the fatal shooting in August of an unarmed teen in Ferguson, Missouri. The Justice Department has launched similar audits in cities including Philadelphia, Baltimore and Spokane, Washington.

In Calexico, the FBI seized computer hard drives and documents from police department headquarters in October in what it said was an investigation involving several officers suspected of committing crimes while on duty. Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, said the Justice Department review was separate from the FBI investigation and declined to comment on the prospect of criminal charges.

Asked the characterize the department's problems, the mayor said, "There was overtime abuse. There was nothing being done in investigations. The whole department was a wreck."

Michael Bostic, who was named interim police chief shortly before the FBI raid, said last month that an internal review found "rampant abuse of overtime," complaints of threats and intimidation from officers and failure by officers to do required duties, according to the Imperial Valley Press newspaper. The chief said uses of force were being reviewed.

Bostic, a former assistant police chief in Los Angeles who promised a turnaround when he took the helm, said the launch of the federal review was "a great day."

Ronald Davis, director of the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, said federal involvement would last about three years, with initial findings due in eight to 10 months and two follow-up reports, all to be made public and done at no cost to the city. The department would host a public forum, interview residents and officers and analyze data, he said.

"This is an assessment, not an investigation," Davis said.

The Justice Department unit last month completed a yearlong review of the San Diego Police Department — also done at the city's request — that found a lack of supervision and failure to hold officers accountable contributed to a rash of misconduct involving officers. It gave recommendations to improve recruiting, hiring, training and supervision aimed at more quickly identifying problem officers.