Friday, January 22, 1999

Police review panel approved

Activists cheer; FOP: 'Disastrous'

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Neighborhood activists and African-American leaders celebrated in the hall outside Cincinnati City Council Thursday after council voted to create a citizen police review panel.

        “This is a very positive step,” said Milton Hinton, president of the NAACP, one of many groups that had lobbied council for a review board.

        But Keith Fangman, president of the Queen City Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said creation of the seven-member panel would have a “disastrous effect on police morale, which is already as low as it has ever been.”

Heimlich sole dissenter
        On a vote of 8-1, with Republican Phil Heimlich dissenting, council adopted a plan which had been put together by Councilman Tyrone Yates, chairman of council's law and public safety committee.

        The panel will have no independent authority to discipline police officers, but when it investigates charges of police misconduct, its finding will be made public.

        Allegations of police misconduct already are subject to investigations by the police division's internal affairs department and the city's investigative arm, the Office of Municipal Investigations.

        Members of the new civilian review board would be appointed to three-year terms by the city manager.

        The panel would take citizen complaints of police misconduct and route them to the appropriate city investigator.

        Upon completion of any internal city investigation, a citizen could register a complaint during a public hearing. Further hearings would be deemed an “administrative or personnel” hearing, and closed to the public.

"Time to be positive'
        The panel would issue public reports, give advice and make recommendations to the city manager regarding thoroughness, accuracy, credibility and impartiality of the investigations.

        Mr. Hinton said that while the final version of the plan passed by council “didn't include everything we might have wanted, it is time now to be proactive and positive about this, when the climate in the community is relatively calm.”

        Mr. Fangman said most Cincinnati police officers think the civilian review panel would “just be another level of bureaucracy” and would expose police officers accused of misconduct “to a potentially hostile environment.”

        But the Sentinels Police Association, an organization of black police officers, has strongly favored the idea of a civilian review board.


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