Thursday, March 29, 2001

Council passes profiling law

Police required to document circumstances of traffic stops

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Beginning May 7, routine traffic stops involving Cincinnati police will become more complicated for officers, when the city's new law intended to stop racial profiling takes effect.

        The new law affirms one already on the books: Police are not allowed to detain citizens based strictly on their race. But it takes the law several steps further, most notably stating that officers who violate it can be fired.

        Police also will be required to record new information for each traffic stop they make, including:

        • The number of occupants in the vehicle, along with the race, color, ethnicity, gender and age of each person as observed by the officer. This information is not required to be given by the person stopped.

        • The nature and location of the stop.

        • The crime charged if an arrest is made.

    An $8.5 million subsidy to renovate the former downtown McAlpin's department store and two adjacent buildings got the nod from Cincinnati City Council on Wednesday.
    Madison Marquette Development Co. has proposed turning the vacant buildings on Fourth Street into a two-story retail center and office space.
    The total project cost is estimated at $27 million.
    “This is a wonderful development for downtown,” Mayor Charlie Luken said after the unanimous vote.
        • In cases of a search, whether the person consented; the probable cause; whether the person's property was searched; how long it took.

        • Whether any contraband was discovered and, if so, the type.

        The city will contract with an outside agency to analyze the data.

        Council passed the ordinance 8-1 on Wednesday, with Councilman Phil Heimlich opposed.

        John Cranley, chairman of council's law committee, pushed the law, which had been stalled in committee for months. He said the law will not end the city's race-elations problem.

        “This is not a panacea, but it's a good place to start,” Mr. Cranley said. “This is a concrete step to address issues of racial justice.”

        Officers won't begin enforcing the law until May 7 because of a request from attorney Ken Lawson, who has a pending suit against the city over racial profiling.

        Mr. Lawson said he is in negotiations with city officials trying to reach an agreed settlement to the suit. He asked that implementation of the new law be delayed.

        “If the ordinance passes and officers are made to take statistics, members of the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) are going to be very angry,” Mr. Lawson said. “I think the ordinance is important, but we're in the middle of trying to work this out.”

        Council obliged, delaying implementation. But Mr. Cranley said he doesn't want to see it delayed any longer.

        FOP President Keith Fangman said the law is a bad deal for citizens. The data collection aspect of the law, in particular, might have some unintended effects, he said.

        “The intent is to use this legislation as intimidation,” Mr. Fangman said. “But council needs to be careful what it wishes for.

        “Studies have shown that officers often stop making traffic stops, so it could have a chilling effect. Also, the idea of verbal warnings goes right out the window.”

        Mr. Fangman also questioned why council believes bad cops making bad stops will fill out the forms truthfully.

        “It's flawed logic,” he said.

        Mr. Heimlich said he opposed the data collection portion of the law. He said the city doesn't have any idea what to do with the information, so why collect it?

        “What we are forcing the police to do today is keep a massive data base on citizens who have not broken the law,” Mr. Heimlich said. “My concern is that officers will feel pressured to balance the books.

        “If they stop 20 whites in the first part of the year, they'll feel pressured to stop 20 blacks in the last part.”

        The Rev. James Jones, a member of the Baptist Ministers Conference, addressed council before the vote. He said the law itself won't end racial profiling.

        “If it does not deal with getting rid of bad cops, this is a joke,” the Rev. Mr. Jones said. “Don't play a joke with our lives, or mental health or our safety.”


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