A scathing audit of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) suggests former Sheriff Simon Leis crippled technological developments, stacked leadership positions with political cronies and still kept his staff fiercely loyal during his 25-year reign over the sheriff’s office.
According to the Oct. 15 audit, the result was an agency “largely frozen in time” that failed at adopting modern standards and practices for policing and corrections facilities.
As one example, the audit found the agency still uses what it colloquially calls “The Book,” a single, massive paper-based trove of financial data and other information, instead of modern technologies, such as computer spreadsheets. Not only did the agency insist on sticking to the old ways of keeping records, but one unit head reportedly told auditors that she simply does not trust computers.
The audit presents various consequences for Hamilton County: outdated policing policies, exposure to possible litigation and an overworked, under-trained staff.
“A mid-level supervisor indicated that in his twenty-plus year career, he has never had updated use of force training beyond the initial academy. This is inconsistent with the best practices and exposes the HCSO, the County, and officeholders to unnecessary legal liability,” the audit found.
Leis’ policies also had a negative effect on newcomers trying to build a career on the county force, according to the audit.
“The command staff was comprised exclusively of personal and political associates of the former sheriff, some with no true law enforcement experience except at that level,” the audit noted. “Almost no career employees were promoted above the rank of lieutenant, despite advanced training including degrees and other training (e.g. Southern Police Institute) directly related to their careers.”
One staff commander interviewed for the audit reportedly said the failure to identify, train and promote new leaders created “The Lost Generation” at HCSO.
One explanation for the dire circumstances, according to the audit, is that the agency completely lacked inspection and planning functions that would have examined policies and practices for certain standards and established plans to fix discovered errors.
Another possible cause: The audit found that five years of cuts created staffing gaps in several areas, particularly correctional facilities.
Still, the audit found the sheriff’s staff is so loyal that its members would quickly embrace and adapt to changes given through the chain of command. “This is a key advantage, and we have no doubt that both sworn and non-sworn HCSO members will readily and rapidly implement chosen reforms and changes,” the audit claimed.
The audit recommends various new investments and changes in standards for HSCO. It notes that some of the investments, such as a greater focus on modern technology, could help make the agency’s work more efficient and allow a reduction of non-sworn staff — and the costs associated with them — through attrition.
But the investments would involve a substantial policy shift for Hamilton County, which carried out major budget cuts in the past six years just to get to a point this year where large reductions or tax increases aren’t necessary to balance the annual budget.
Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil promised the audit during his 2012 campaign. It was conducted by former American Civil Liberties Union attorney Scott Greenwood and former Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher.
The HCSO audit:
Residents will get a chance to ask Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig some questions at a public meeting this week.
Craig, who was sworn in as the city’s 13th police chief in August, will be the featured speaker at the annual meeting of Citizens for Civic Renewal (CCR). The session will be held from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday at Kingsgate Marriott Conference Center in Corryville, near the University of Cincinnati.
A panel of nine criminal justice officials on Friday recommended limiting access to Ohio’s facial recognition program and establishing protocols that would seek to make the program less prone to abuse.
The panel’s recommendations follow a nearly two-month review of current procedures and public criticisms over the program’s secrecy and alleged lack of oversight.
The panel broadly looked at the Ohio Law Enforcement Gateway (OHLEG), a state database of criminal justice histories and records, but largely focused on the controversial facial recognition program, which was live for more than two months and 2,677 searches before Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine formally announced its existence in August. The program allows police officers and civilian employees to use a photo to search databases for names and contact information; previously, law enforcement officials needed a name or address to search such databases.The panel recommends limiting access of the facial recognition program to law enforcement, meaning police departments, sheriff’s offices, state highway patrol, county prosecuting attorneys and other local, state or federal bodies that enforce criminal laws or have employees who have the legal authority to carry out an arrest. Anyone else who wants to tap into the system would need to do so with written permission from the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).
For those who would retain access, the panel says written policies and protocols should be developed and implemented. The recommendations extend from written rules for out-of-state officials to a training program that better establishes clear penalties for misuse and guidelines for reporting and prosecuting infractions.
The report calls for improved monitoring of the system, which it states is “perhaps the most effective measure of whether the system is being properly implemented for its intended criminal justice purpose.” The oversight should include random audits of OHLEG, one person in charge of monitoring OHLEG’s use in each local agency and a model for ideal use, according to the report.
The panel says the attorney general should also establish a steering committee comprised of criminal justice officials, along with an advisory group. The committee would be in charge of OHLEG training, monitoring and policy review, among other oversight functions.
The panel also advises the attorney general’s office to launch an education campaign that tells the public of the potential benefits of OHLEG’s programs.
Separately, the Ohio Public Defender’s Office recommends allowing citizens to access their own criminal history records through a secure Internet portal with a social security number, similar to AnnualCreditReport.com.
The panel included former Ohio Supreme Court justices, judges and law enforcement officials, among other criminal justice leaders from around Ohio.
DeWine, a Republican, says the facial recognition program is a vital tool for law enforcement to more easily identify and catch potential criminals. But critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper, say the program was allowed to operate for far too long without public knowledge or proper checks in place.When asked if DeWine will implement the recommendations, Lisa Hackley, spokesperson for the attorney general’s office, wrote in an email, “The Attorney General has committed to implementing the recommendations. Some are already in progress. Others, such as those requiring new computer programming, may take longer.”
The full report:
Updated at 10:04 p.m. with comment from the attorney general’s office.
A Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals judge has denied the Milford-Miami Advertiser's request to appeal a 2012 ruling that charged the Gannett-owned suburban weekly with defamation and ordered the paper to pay the defamed plaintiff $100,000 in damages.
In an article published in the Advertiser on May 27, 2010 titled "Cop's suspension called best move for city," the paper implicated Miami Township police officer James Young, who years before had been mired in legal trouble for accusations of sexual assault that were eventually disproven, in its article discussing another sex scandal in the area.
According to court documents, in 1997, Young was initially fired from his job after a woman named Marcie Phillips accused Young of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while Young was on duty. An internal investigation revealed that the two had actually been engaged in a relationship prior and that Young had spent time at Phillips' house while on duty. The allegations, however, were entangled in questions about Phillips' character and concern that she could have been lying about the rape because the relationship between the two had recently ended on rocky terms.
When DNA testing on semen found on a rug in the woman's home proved that the DNA didn't match Young's, he was exonerated and reinstated to his position.
The Advertiser article explained that Young had been terminated for sexual harassment, immoral behavior, gross misconduct and neglect in the line of duty and also stated that "Young had sex with a woman while on the job," which formed the basis for Young's defamation suit.
The 2010 article dealt with similar accusations lodged against Milford Police Officer Russell Kenney, who pleaded guilty to charges that he'd been having sex with Milford Mayor Amy Brewer while he was on duty on multiple occasions.
Kenney was suspended from his position for 15 days, but was later reinstated even though Milford's police chief planned to recommend his termination to avoid having to use an arbitrator to dissect the case.
Although the article is attributed to writer Kellie Giest, the lawsuit revealed that the paper's editor at the time, Theresa Herron, inserted the section of the article that went to trial. According to court documents, Herron added the paragraphs about Young to Giest's story because she felt the article needed more context about why the city wanted to avoid arbitration.
According to court documents from the suit Young filed against the Gannett Satellite Information Network, Gannett responded the to initial complaint by acknowledging that the statement was a defamation of character, but that the statement was made without actual malice on the part of Herron. There is a high legal threshold for plaintiffs to establish a defamation claim, which require the plaintiff to prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt; for public officials, the threshold is even higher because they most prove that the offender acted with actual malice — in this case, knowing the claim about Young was false and printing it anyway — to win a lawsuit.
In its appeal, Gannett argued that Young, as a police officer, did not meet the threshold of a public official required to successfully establish a defamation claim and that Herron's inclusions were based on rational interpretations of documents on the case — even though Young denied having sex with plaintiff Marcie Phillips, he admitted the two had kissed and the arbitrator's report documented one instance in which Young was at Phillips' house while on duty.
In the court's opinion denying Gannett's appeal, Judge John Rogers writes that Herron admitted she had read the arbitrator's report from Young's case, which provided no evidence that Young and Phillips ever actually had sex at all.
"There was sufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that Herron was well aware that the statement she added to the article was probably false," it reads. "Herron was also reckless in failing to conduct any investigation beyond the records of the original case. She did not seek out Young for comment, nor did she talk to anyone involved in his case."
After 18 months in the courts, Democrat Tracie Hunter has won a Hamilton County Juvenile Court judgeship, but a GOP challenge to the court's acceptance of Hunter's challenge is likely to follow. Republican John Williams led hunter by 23 votes on election night 2010, but Hunter filed a lawsuit over provisional ballots cast at incorrect polling stations that weren't counted. After a recount of 286 provisional ballots, Hunter moved ahead by 74 votes. Republican board of election members reportedly plan to argue that the 286 should not have been recounted.
The Enquirer's Mark Curnutte today offered an analysis of recently released census data that shows a steady growth of the regional Hispanic population and a growth of minority population in areas outside the city that were once largely white. Cincinnati's data suggests that the city and region are slightly different than the nation's overall trend, which in 2011 for the first time found a majority of the country's under 1-year-old population minority (50.4 percent), up from 49.5 percent in 2010.
Included in The Enquirer's story, which included a profile of a Mexican-American Florence family that moved to Northern Kentucky eight years ago from Los Angeles:
A decrease of 1.3 percentage points in Hamilton County’s black population under 5 was countered by increases in the black population under 5 in each of the region’s six other core counties: Butler, Clermont and Warren in Ohio and Boone, Campbell and Kenton in Kentucky.
Overall, the regional population of Hispanic children under 5 years rose from 7,583 in 2010 to 8,032 in 2011, a proportional increase of 0.4 percentage points to 6.1 percent.
The family of a teenager fatally shot by a Cincinnati police officer on Fountain Square last summer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging police used excessive force and violated 16-year-old Davon Mullins' constitutional rights. Police say Mullins pulled a handgun, but the lawsuit says he had been disarmed before officer Oscar Cyranek shot him multiple times.
Cincinnati's Bike Month revelers and Over-the-Rhine residents received some good news this week when Reser Bicycle Outfitters announced the opening of an OTR location. The store could open by June 1 in the 1400 block of Vine Street.
Legislation regulating ownership and breeding of exotic animals has been approved by the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, 17-4. Senate Bill 310 could get through the full House and Senate next week and be signed by Gov. John Kasich soon afterward. The ban on the acquisition, sale and breeding of certain species would take affect 90 days later.
Former Senator John Edwards will learn his fate today, as a jury was set to deliberate this morning on charges that Edwards used campaign funds to conceal an affair during his run for president.
More than 200 pages of documents, photos and audio recordings were released yesterday offering further details about what happened the night George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
The documents include an FBI audio analysis of the 911 call placed by a resident that captured yells and screams. Two FBI examiners said they could not determine whether it was Martin or Zimmerman yelling because of the poor quality of the recording and the "extreme emotional state" of screamer.
Cell phone maker Nokia has accused Apple of programming bias into its interactive Siri voice search by making it answer the question “What is the best smartphone ever?” by stating “"Wait... there are other phones?" The answer had apparently previously been “Nokia's Lumia 900.” Apple won't say whether or not it changed Siri's answer after finding the glitch.
A new study suggests that nighttime fasting can go a long way toward keeping you slim even if you eat bad stuff during the day.
Scientists have found a car-sized turtle shell.
The private space launch is scheduled for 4:55 a.m. Saturday, and there will be alcohol involved.
President Obama dropped $90 mil on a couple of local non-profit development companies. Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) and the Uptown Consortium were awarded $50 million and $40 million tax credits, respectively, by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as part of a program aimed at spurring retail and residential growth. 3CDC says it plans to create a rock climbing wall/juice bar/light-free techno dance hall in order to draw more YPs to the area. (Just kidding.)
P&G plans to cut 5,700 jobs next year (and we just had our resumes all cleaned up to prove we could write the best stories about how Tide makes clothing — and life — better for everyone…).
A 15-year-old Milford High School freshman named Eben Christian Franckewitz has advanced to next Thursday’s live episode of American Idol. Franckewitz is reportedly the first area reside to become one of the 24 Idol semifinalists. Pick it up, area talented people!
The New York Police Department is defending its recent practice of spying on mosques using tactics it normally reserves for criminal organizations. The AP got a hold of documents that showed police "collecting the license plates of worshipers, monitoring them on surveillance cameras and cataloging sermons through a network of informants."
The new documents, prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, show how the NYPD's roster of paid informants monitored conversations and sermons inside mosques. The records offer the first glimpse of what those informants, known informally as "mosque crawlers," gleaned from inside the houses of worship.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says his police would never spy on Muslims.
Officials in Australia have opened another investigation into the 1980 death of a 9-week-old baby whose parents say was taken away by a dingo. The mother was convicted of murder and later cleared of the charge.
Seven Marines were killed in a training crash near the California-Arizona border Wednesday night, one of the deadliest training crashes ever. Officials say it will take weeks to determine why the two helicopters crashed in midair during a routine exercise.
JC Penny lost $87 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. CEO Ron Johnson says it’s cool, though, because the company was getting a makeover and those are expensive.
On the other side of the fence dividing companies that lose money and companies that make mass of it, Apple is so flush its CEO says the company has too much cash. Tim Cook is reportedly “wondering what to do with the company's $97.6 billion.”
A new study says
that global warming could shrink the human race. Wait, what?!? It’s
true: NEW GLOBAL WARMING THREAT: HUMAN RACE MAY SHRINK. Great ... just great.
Oh, and the UC basketball team beat No. 17 Louisville last night, a big step toward playing in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year. Nice, one-handed jam, Dion!
Meet Roger Jeremy Ramundo, the man police shot and killed on July 24 after what’s now being called a “life or death struggle.” Police say they first tried to subdue Ramundo, who had a history of mental health problems. But when Ramundo fired his gun once, an officer retaliated by firing two fatal shots into Ramundo’s left back. For family members and colleagues, Ramundo’s death came as a shock; none of them seemed to expect that he could turn violent. Ramundo was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder, according to the health care worker who notified police that Ramundo left home with his licensed gun, but he had been refusing to take his medication for either illness at the time of his death.
Budget cuts to human services, parks and other areas could be retroactively reduced or eliminated with higher-than-projected revenues from the previous budget cycle, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls announced yesterday. When City Council passed the city’s operating budget in May, it had not yet received the full revenue numbers for the fiscal year that ended on June 30. With the full numbers expected to come in higher than originally projected, Council will be able to evaluate options for what and how much can be restored. Human services funding was cut by roughly one-third in the city budget, putting it at 0.3 percent of overall spending — far below the city’s historic goal of 1.5 percent.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine won’t appeal the temporary restraining order that forces the state to recognize a Cincinnati same-sex couple on their death certificate, but DeWine says he’ll continue defending the state’s ban on gay marriage. Lisa Hackley, DeWine’s spokesperson, noted that such restraining orders are normally not susceptible to appeal. Hackley’s explanation contradicts an earlier report from The Cincinnati Enquirer that the order was going to be appealed. Meanwhile, FreedomOhio says it will try to put an amendment legalizing marriage equality on the November 2014 ballot, which CityBeat covered here when the group was still aiming for the 2013 ballot.
The I-71/MLK Interchange yesterday moved closer to its $107.7 million funding goal when Ohio’s Transportation Review Advisory Council gave preliminary approval to Gov. John Kasich’s transportation plan, which will use $3 billion raised through Ohio Turnpike revenues to fund infrastructure projects around the state.
The Ohio Supreme Court will review whether anti-gambling opponents of racinos have standing to sue. Among other issues, critics argue that Kasich’s legalization of video lottery terminals didn’t represent an actual extension of the Ohio Lottery, which is why the state claims it was allowed to legalize the gambling machines without voter approval. The state’s Supreme Court says it will decide the issue after it rules on a similar case involving privatized development agency JobsOhio.
Democrats are voicing uncertainty about whether Republicans will actually take up a Medicaid expansion bill in September. Republican legislators rejected the expansion in the state budget, but they’ve said they will take up the issue in the fall. The Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion, which is funded mostly through federal funds from Obamacare, would insure half a million Ohioans and save the state money over the next decade.
Charter schools’ big challenge: finding space to house their facilities.
An Ohio gun group raised $12,000 to buy George Zimmerman a gun or security system.
Drivers, beware: Hackers could soon be crashing your cars.
Drinking coffee has been linked to a 50 percent lower risk of suicide.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. says allegations by two municipal workers that a Cincinnati councilman used a racial slur can neither be proven nor disproven, so the charge has been dropped as “unfounded.”
In a three-page memorandum given today to the city's Human Resources Department, Dohoney announced that there will be no disciplinary action taken against the two workers due to the administrative investigation concluding “there were no unbiased witnesses to the incident.”
An internal police investigation determined that officers acted improperly in a July 10 car chase that ended up with one child seriously injured and four teenagers hurt.
The Professional Standards Section investigation, dated Sept. 4, determined that Specialist Diana Cloud violated department policy and procedure when she pursued a car full of the youths, who had allegedly stolen snacks from a Norwood United Dairy Farmers.
Two of the five girls allegedly took the snacks from the store and got into a car driven by a 16-year-old. Cloud, who investigated the alleged theft, saw the car drive near the UDF and pursued it in her cruiser. During the chase — in which Cloud reached 75 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone — the girls’ car crashed into a steel utility pole, sending one to the hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding brain.
The investigation found that Cloud’s pursuit was not in compliance with department procedure because of her failure to stop at an intersection, driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit and failure to turn on her digital voice recorder during the chase.
The report determined that the girls’ injuries were a result of the driver’s inability to control her car.
A May 2011 CityBeat look at a study of police car chases found that almost 40 percent of them result in accidents.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study examining deaths resulting from police pursuits found that more than 6,000 crashes and 7,500 deaths were caused by such chases. Almost 2,000 of those deaths — recorded nationally between 1982 and 2008 — were innocent bystanders.
The Cincinnati Police Department has a policy in place since the early 1990s dictating when to chase or not to chase, when to break off pursuit and how to conduct chases as safely as possible.
According to the investigation into the July 10 pursuit, Specialist Cloud had decided to break off her pursuit due to the high speed just before the crash occurred, but could not report her decision due to high radio traffic.