Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Hamilton addresses bias issue

Police draft policy on racial profiling

By Earnest Winston
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — Police say they are drafting a policy prohibiting racial profiling as a means to take the initiative, not because they detect a problem.

        Police Chief Neil Ferdelman said the “strongly worded” policy will become effective sometime after April 12, when the department's 120 sworn officers finish in-service training. Part of the training focuses on racial profiling, which is the practice by law enforcement officials of singling out people based on their race.

        “We're telling our officers that any time they have contact with our citizens, through either a traffic stop or field interrogation, it has to be based on three words: articulable probable cause,” Chief Ferdelman said. “It has to be based on some kind of clear-cut reason that would lead to a criminal or a traffic act.”

        A component of the training also involves a presentation on the controversy in Cincinnati surrounding racial profiling, past events in Hamilton and a program developed by the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.

        “We're trying to learn from the mistakes of others in terms of addressing this issue,” Chief Ferdelman said. “The message that I'm sending to our officers is that probably not many of them think that racial profiling is an issue in Hamilton, but perception is pretty important.

        “There are members, I'm certain, of the African-American community (who are) certain that it is an issue. We have to address that perception,” he said.

        The Rev. William Jansen, associate director of the Hamilton-based Hispanic ministry of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, said Hispanics have told him that they think law enforcement officials in Butler County have stopped them for no lawful reason. He said the problem has improved in recent months.

        Councilman Richard Holzberger said he does not perceive a problem with racial profiling in Hamilton. Still, he said, he recently asked the chief to prepare a report on his thoughts on the practice.

        Mr. Holzberger said his request came after he and several council members heard U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft say during a National League of Cities conference in Washington earlier this month that banning racial profiling is among his top priorities.


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