Lorain police chief addresses allegations of excessive force following lawsuit

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LORAIN, Ohio-- The Lorain police chief was joined by other city and religious leaders on Saturday to discuss a recent lawsuit accusing the department of excessive force.

Pele Smith, 30, filed a federal lawsuit against a Lorain police officer for using excessive force during his arrest in 2014. Video shows the officer slamming the man's head against the cruiser, breaking the windshield. Smith was being arrested on drug charges and police said he tried to destroy evidence.

During Saturday's news conference, Chief Cel Rivera thanked the community for holding his department accountable. He said he's asked for a third-party review and submitted the case to the county prosecutor's office.

The chief did not talk about specifics of the pending litigation, but felt it was important to give an update. The city's mayor and safety director were out of town and not at the news conference.

Rivera said it's painful to think his department may be associated with police incidents nationally.

In 2008, the Lorain Police Department started reviewing its operations and becoming more introspective, Rivera said. They've used social media to keep in touch with the community, changed hiring practices, updated training programs, started peer counseling, and partnered with the metropolitan housing authority and local schools.

Ward 6 Councilman Angel Arroyo Jr. added they are trying to be transparent without compromising the integrity of the investigation. They will host two community forums on for residents to voice their concerns and ask questions. The first will be at Iglesia de Dios Ebenezer at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Details about the second will be released later.

Fairfield Christian Center Pastor Dennis Johnson said he's known the Smith family since they moved to Ohio from Alabama. He told reporters Smith's mother wants peace and justice.