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Better Policing

By Gregory Flannery · February 1st, 2006 · All The News That Fits
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What a difference a year -- and a federal court order -- make.

In his 12th quarterly report on police reform in Cincinnati, Saul Green, the independent monitor appointed by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott, found the police department largely in compliance with a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the U.S. Justice Department and the collaborative agreement with plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit that had alleged racial profiling.

A year ago a crisis seemed to be building, with Green complaining to Dlott about the contemptuous behavior his staff had received from Police Chief Thomas Streicher and Assistant Chief Richard Janke (see "Time to Pay," issue of Feb. 2-8, 2005). Dlott found the city in violation of the collaborative agreement and turned it into a court order, with the possibility of fines and jail if the police leadership continued its non-compliance.

Green's latest report, covering July 1 through Sept. 30, 2005, shows much improved cooperation.

The police department's policies on use of force are a core focus of the two agreements, signed in 2002, after an uprising in Over-the-Rhine against police violence a year earlier. The department has made significant progress in adapting its use of force to the MOA, according to Green.

"The monitor found that the Taser deployments and other use-of-force incidents reviewed this quarter were in compliance with the use-of-force model required by the MOA," the report says.

"The monitor also found the CPD to be in compliance with the MOA provisions for chemical spray, beanbag shotgun and canine deployment."

Handling of citizens' complaints, another important area of concern, has also improved, although Green found room for progress.

"The monitor reviewed a sample of citizen complaint investigations that were completed in the third quarter of 2005," the report says. "While several of these investigations were well conducted and thorough, the monitor identified others that were not consistent with the MOA requirements. The city is not in compliance with the requirement that investigations be completed within 90 days of the complaint. We also noted investigations where not all of the relevant evidence was considered, or where relevant witnesses were not identified and interviewed."

Another goal of the two reform agreements is an overall change in the police department's operating philosophy, emphasizing community problem-oriented policing (CPOP).

"As the third year of the monitoring of the collaborative agreement begins, we would like to see the CPD quicken its pace towards full adoption of problem solving as the principal strategy in crime fighting," the report says.

But so much progress has been made that the monitor took time to note a series of awards given to encourage improvement in police-community relations. Special recognition for CPOP efforts went to Prencis Wilson of Madisonville.

"Prencis embodies what the collaborative agreement and CPOP is all about," Green's report says. "As an African-American resident in a neighborhood that is predominately African-American (60 percent), she admits to having some distrust of the police in her community, about which she was quoted in the 2005 CPOP Annual Report: 'Prior to CPOP training, I did not like police officers.' "

But Wilson's participation in her neighborhood's CPOP program has made a change, and her readiness to work with police to help her community is making a real difference, according to Green. In addition to working with CPOP, Prencis serves on the Community Committee of the Keep Cincinnati Beautiful Board, the Board of Madisonville Mission Ministries, the advisory board of the Second Chance Program and the Collaborative Agreement Action Group of the Woman's City Club.

"At all times, and in every venue, Prencis has been a champion for CPOP and the collaborative agreement, both in spirit and in practice," the report says.

That kind of transition might be the best hope Cincinnati has for meaningful reform.

To read the independent monitor's full report, visit www.gabsnet.com/cincinnatimonitor.



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