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Police Reform

By · December 20th, 2001 · Three Way
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Should Cincinnati City Council Implement the U.S. Justice Department Recommendations?

Kimberly Wood, vice president of Hamilton County Young Democrats

If we as a city want to make genuine and positive steps toward improving police/community relations, we must implement the Justice Department's recommendations. Of course, improving police/community relations is not the only gift the Justice Department brings us during this holiday season. It also bears gifts such as ways to keep our officers safer and suggestions on how to make their jobs a little easier.

Councilman Pat DeWine doesn't have the monopoly on how to improve the Cincinnati Police Division (CPD). Yes, we must replace the arbitration system to weed out the few bad apples that poison the CPD. But we must also ensure the policies and regulations that our officers are required to abide by are not so confusing and ambiguous that they put themselves or citizens at risk for harm.

How can you argue with such recommendations as the CPD should revise its policies to clarify terms to ensure force is only used in appropriate circumstances? Or the CPD should require officers to report all uses and shows of force? Or the CPD should change aspects of its citizen complaint process that may discourage citizens from participating? Or the CPD should clarify the roles of all entities charged with investigating serious allegations of misconduct by the CPD and should provide adequate resources for such investigations? I don't think you can.

Cincinnati Police officers put their lives on the line for each of us every day and every night. It is the mayor's and city council's responsibility to make sure they are working with the best that we can give them. They deserve no less. Cincinnati deserves no less.

Should the city implement the Justice Department recommendations? Well, as Councilman John Cranley would say, "Duh!"

Charles Tassell, president of Blue Chip Young Republicans

Cincinnatians have a striking hypocrisy with regards to advice and from whom it should come. The Justice Department, in all its bureaucratic wisdom, offered suggestions -- without a writ of mandamus even threatened -- to the police department for policy review.

Even the Justice Department recognizes there is no silver bullet for any one police department (also see the 10th Amendment to the Bill of Rights). Their ideas might not be best for Cincinnati, so they defer to local police professionals and policy makers to determine what's best for the community.

The question becomes one of local review for Chief Thomas Streicher and his professionally trained and nationally awarded staff and, of course, any yahoo who is on city council or has a council member's ear.

The hypocrisy here is that the same groups that want outside influences to govern our police department also want local developers to be given first or exclusive rights to all development.

While familiarity does breed contempt, the wholesale discounting of an entire department should be met with significant skepticism from the community at large. Why is it that one department (police) should not be allowed to work locally and have their hands tied by federal recommendations while another department (economic development) must work under the local restrictions of a "small talent pool." The problem can be summed up with the old phrase, "follow the money."

The police will no doubt implement some of the guidelines from the Justice Department's report and justify why they did not implement the other suggestions. The sad part is that all this attention will be focused on the police department rather than the houses empty because of fleeing citizens, the stagnant property values and the impact that has on the remaining citizens and the schools.

Amanda Mayes, spokeswoman for Coalition for a Just Cincinnati

City council's role in this process is perceived differently, depending on whom you ask. Pat DeWine, a Republican and chair of the Law and Public Safety Committee, said it isn't council's role to govern how police officers deal with citizens (The Cincinnati Post, Nov. 17). However, Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman announced Nov. 29, in a statement to the The Cincinnati Post, "We don't need the federal government running our police division. The people of this community have elected nine members to do that."

I agree with Fangman. It is city council's responsibility to run our police division. Ultimately they are the ones elected to see the city is meeting the needs of the people. They are responsible to maintain the safety and security of the people. They must ensure equal protection under the law and fair treatment of all citizens. It is an awesome obligation that must be treated with respect, urgency and wisdom.

Do I believe council will live up to this responsibility? Hell, no!

Since April, I have seen no changes in this city, no change whatsoever in the attitudes of council members -- at least, no changes for the better. If anything, council has become decidedly worse. Alicia Reece has completely sold out the black community, while John Cranley has taken care of selling out the poor. Charlie Luken's first actions as the new strong mayor have been to censor the community as a whole and attack panhandlers while giving away millions to Saks Fifth Avenue.

Furthermore, there's been no change in the actions of the police department. More young black men have been killed by Cincinnati Police since April, and there is still no justice in the courts in Hamilton County. Fangman has stated council will be more sympathetic to the police division than a federal judge, and again I have to agree. I do not, however, agree this is a good thing.

I believe Luken and the band of equally incompetent council members showed their true colors when they removed Damon Lynch from Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN) and threatened plaintiffs of the class action lawsuit with withdrawal from the collaborative mediation if something else was said that they don't agree with. This is not an action taken by a body committed to communication and change.

This council is guilty of the very crime it accuses Lynch of. If they are unwilling to hear the truth, if they are unwilling to respect or take seriously the concerns of the community, they will never be able to live up to the responsibility they have been elected to take on. I believe it is in the best interest of the city if council exercises patience, waits for the recommendations of the federal judge presiding over the racial profiling lawsuit and works with the collaborative to implement the Justice Department recommendations.

 
 
 
 

 

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