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Distrust and Discomfort

By Stephanie Dunlap · April 13th, 2005 · All The News That Fits
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It's standard procedure to give someone being audited a chance to respond. But such responses are typically more constructive than the Cincinnati Police Department's response to the city audit of police overtime released April 5.

"The Internal Audit Division findings are flawed and inaccurate," says the response signed by Police Chief Thomas Streicher. "The recommendations based on the findings are of limited usefulness, and in most cases flawed because the findings are flawed."

Assistant Chief Richard Janke met April 5 with city council's Internal Audit Committee. Among other things, police accused the auditors of using "simplistic analysis."

Internal Audit Manager Mark Ashworth says audit responses usually read more like Fire Chief Robert Wright's Jan. 7 response to an audit of fire department overtime: "The Fire Department welcomes this constructive and critical review of its overtime policies and expenditures."

But on top of their dismissive official response, police took the unusual step of preemptively releasing a memo March 31 that summarized the audit's 23 findings and conclusions into six points and then rebutted them all.

"The summary in the CPD memo grossly misrepresents some audit findings ...

and ignores several others," Ashworth wrote April 4. Some of the "facts" cited in the CPD memo were either incorrect or contradicted the data police themselves had previously given auditors.

It was an unsurprising end to a contentious audit process that dragged on much longer than expected.

Ashworth has worked for the city for 22 years, the past 12 in the Internal Audit Division. He says this police audit has been the most confrontational he's done. "Condescending" is the word he uses to describe the attitude of police toward auditors.

A timeline kept by Ashworth details some of the run-around CPD gave auditors. For example, on Nov. 1, 2004, a police supervisor tried to bill auditors for copies of activity records from an officer whom auditors suspected of fraud.

When questioned, Streicher quickly assured Ashworth there would be no fee.

Three days later police suddenly seized every audit document, saying they were needed for a grand jury investigation into that case of suspected fraud -- although those documents were just copies that had been supplied by police themselves.

It was a month before most of the documents were returned and auditors' work could resume.

Ashworth's timeline notes that starting Dec. 9, 2004, police supervisors required all interviews with staff to be audio taped and a police captain present for all interviews with anyone at the lieutenant's level and lower.

"The auditors conclude that staff giving testimony in the presence of their supervisors while being audio taped were unable to speak as freely as they could during the course of a normal audit," says a page of the final report titled "Audit Environment."

The only purpose the audiotapes seemed to serve was to "create an atmosphere of distrust and discomfort," the report says.

Not only that, auditors believe police violated Ohio public records law by waiting two and a half months to comply with requests for copies of the tapes.

In spite of CPD's prickly initial rebuttal, Janke told the internal audit committee April 5 that in the upcoming months Streicher plans to direct his own audits and to bring written procedures in line with current police operations.

"We may be revising some procedures," Janke said.



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