Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Police 'early warning' moved up

Luken, Cranley make it priority

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken and the chairman of council's law committee said Monday the city can impress Justice Department investigators if it moves quickly to fix a broken system of tracking bad behavior by police officers.

        “We should get out in front of this,” said Councilman John Cranley, the law committee chairman.

        The Enquirer reported Sunday that despite assurances by city officials to a federal mediator three years ago, a new “early warning system” was never built by the Cincinnati Police Division and, as a result, records tracking police officers' performance are scattered and filled with errors.

        The Justice Department, which is investigating police patterns and practices after the April 7 shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man, has made early warning systems the focal points of their investigations in other cities.

        Mr. Luken said Monday said he would expect that fixing the sys tem here would be one of the corrective procedures the Justice Department will insist on after its Cincinnati investigation is over.

        “This is something (Police Chief Tom) Streicher and I have talked about for months,” Mr. Luken said. “It's an issue the police are well aware of.

        “For the police, it's not just a matter of finding bad police officers, but getting a handle on what police officers like and dislike about their job, sort of setting out career paths for officers.”

        Mr. Luken said he and the chief have talked about funding a complete revamping of the “early warning system” in the next budget passed by council, but said he could not say how much it would cost.

        “You could go from $1 million to $10 million and it would probably be something in between,” Mr. Luken said. “But, clearly, it is something we are going to have to do.”

        Mr Cranley said he plans to ask Mr. Streicher to come to council's law committee soon to talk about fixing the system.

        “Even if it took a couple of years for it to pay off, we should get started,” Mr. Cranley said. “It would be the kind of assurance that I think the Department of Justice would be looking for.”


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