Thursday, February 15, 2001

2 council members press for ordinance on profiling

Reece, Cranley lead charge; Heimlich questions need

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Racial profiling may be against city policy, but some of Cincinnati's top lawmakers said Wednesday they want it spelled out in black and white.

        They are pushing for immediate passage of an ordinance prohibiting racial profiling, the alleged practice by police officers of stopping motorists or pedestrians be cause of their skin color.

        “This will not be buried in committee any longer,” Councilwoman Alicia Reece promised Wednesday, saying that for months council has allowed the new law to languish.

        Council members asked for an ordinance just after the death of Roger Owensby Jr., who was asphyxiated Nov. 7 while in police custody.

        “Now in 2001,” Ms. Reece said, “we still haven't had a racial profiling issue before us.”

        The American Civil Liberties Union and lawyer Ken Lawson are preparing a lawsuit against the city, alleging that police practice racial profiling. In other cities, similar lawsuits have resulted in departments having to track the race of every driver stopped, including those not cited or arrested.

        Ms. Reece's motion came seconds after Councilman John Cranley was named the new chairman of council's law committee. He pledged that drafting a new ordinance against racial profiling would be his No. 1 priority.

        “I am committed to ending racial profiling,” said Mr. Cranley, who is replacing former Councilman Charlie Winburn as chairman.

        Councilman Phil Heimlich questioned whether an ordinance was needed. He said data showed traffic citations were issued to white drivers 56.8 percent of the time and to black drivers 41.9 percent, and “that seems to mirror the population.”

        A new ordinance, however, would require officers to track the race of drivers in every traffic stop, not just those that resulted in citations.

        Before an ordinance is crafted, Mr. Heimlich said he wants to hear from police officials.

       Jane Prendergrast contributed to this report.


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