Tuesday, March 27, 2001

Racial profiling ban near passage

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        An ordinance should pass Wednesday outlawing racial profiling in Cincinnati and ordering that officers be disciplined — even fired — if they do it.

        The vote comes at a time when the city is facing a federal lawsuit charging that Cincinnati police do target black drivers for traffic stops.

        Discussed for weeks, the ordinance was passed out of council's law committee on Monday. It orders the Cincinnati Police Division to start collecting on April 8 race and other information about every vehicle they pull over.

        “I am so happy that we're getting ready to make a decision that will put racial profiling out of the laws of our city,” Councilwoman Minette Cooper said after the vote.

        The ordinance, if passed, would order officers to start recording this information from every traffic stop: the number of people in the vehicle; their races, genders and ages; the reason for and location of the stop; any charges filed; if the vehicle was searched, why and what, if anything was found; and any other information deemed necessary by Safety Director Kent Ryan.

        It also says the city would contract with a university or agency for independent analysis of the collected data.

        Council members have discussed racial profiling off and on for months. The impetus for this push was the death Nov. 7 of Roger Owensby Jr., who asphyxiated in police custody. Two officers face trials in the death.

        In connection with the racial profiling lawsuit, lawyers for the city, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Cincinnati Black United Front are discussing whether they can work together on a mediation plan.

        Councilman John Cranley, chairman of the committee, said he was pleased because the ordinance has drawn support from all parties — he's a Democrat, Jim Tarbell a Charterite and Pat DeWine a Republican. With their votes and two more, the ordinance will pass the full council Wednesday. Mayor Charlie Luken and council members Alicia Reece and Paul Booth have been vocal supporters.

        Councilman Chris Monzel, a Republican, abstained Monday, saying he wanted more information.

        Mr. Ryan called the data collection part of a more holistic approach that would help police administrators find keys to better management and productivity.


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