Claims of police brutality, misconduct and even false arrests made against some police departments nationwide have been highlighting news outlets for months.
However, one Ohio Valley city faced those claims 18 years ago and believes they are stronger for it now.
Steubenville’s police force was one of the first in the country to be found guilty of corruption. It was so bad that the U.S. Justice Department stepped in and helped clean it up.
Nearly two decades ago, Steubenville was in a state of turmoil much like what Baltimore, Maryland and Ferguson, Missouri are faced with today.
In 1997, the U.S. Department of Justice ordered the city to sign a consent decree after a series of alleged incidents were brought to their attention, involving excessive force, false arrests, charges,
“Because of the consent decree we upgraded our computer system to keep track of arrests, traffic stops, we created forms,” Steubenville Police Department Captain Joel Walker said.
These new procedures allowed supervisors to tell how many arrests and citations were made, how many people were stopped and where and what the charges were.
At the time, this was frowned upon because of how much money it cost to put the system in place.
“We were kind of shy on some of the resources that we had to provide, but everything that was required really built a healthier police department for the city of Steubenville and one that the people have faith and confidence in,” Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci, Jr. said.
Since becoming compliant in 2005, the police department, under Chief Bill McCafferty, have added even more technology and procedures.
“He put together a group of people that were able to get us into compliance, keep track of the forms,” Walker said. “We have a tracking system in our computer that will alert you if certain officers are over a thresholds with certain stops if they’re racially bias or not.”
Since 2005, Captain Walker said there have only been a couple of alleged incidents filed and each complaint is turned over to an investigator to be reviewed.