Sunday, July 15, 2001

Demands sweep across city, county policies




By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Give amnesty to accused rioters. Change the way the city hires and fires the police chief. Strengthen police oversight.

        These are among the demands that must be met before a boycott of downtown businesses and conventions is called off, a contingent of African-American religious leaders and activists said Saturday.

        “We are holding the city's economic future in our hands,” said the Rev. Stephen Scott, pastor of First Recovery Christian Fellowship Church. “If the city won't listen to us, maybe they will listen to their pocketbooks and to their accountants. Playtime is over.”

        The demands jumped from addressing racial profiling to restoring funds to an inner-city youth work program recently stripped of $5 million after an audit found questionable billing practices.

        Some of the demands call for changes already being considered by city officials, while others seem beyond their control.

        The demands, which span city and county jurisdictions, are an amalgamation of lists from three groups. In all, 23 demands were made but five were duplicates.

        Organizers have not formally presented Saturday's list to government officials. They also have not said how terms will be negotiated. Now that the list is out, they said it is up to officials to respond.

        Some of the demands and what has been reported on each issue:
       

Charter amendment


        • Demand: Put a charter amendment on the ballot to change how Cincinnati's police and fire chiefs are hired and revamp the civil service process.

        • What we know: The mayor and city council members agreed to consider such an amendment after the riots. A group of community leaders that helped create the strong mayor system wants changes to also include department heads and supervisors. Under civil service rules, the city must hire department heads from within — including the police and fire chiefs — based on test scores.
       

Investigations

        • Demand: Strengthen the city's independent investigatory agency and provide professional investigators.

        • What we know: The Office of Municipal Investigations employs several full-time investigators. Last month, City Manager John Shirey hired a new director who says she will make police-community relations a priority. The former acting director now works as an investigator, and the city recently advertised for another investigator.
       

City manager

        • Demand: Fire City Manager John Shirey.

        • What we know: To avoid being fired, Mr. Shirey in May offered to resign effective Dec. 1. A majority of the City Council, which was prepared to fire Mr. Shirey, accepted the resignation. As part of the deal, Mr. Shirey, 52, gets the same benefits he would get if he were fired, including a $70,000 severance payment.
       

Police chief

        • Demand: Fire Police Chief Thomas Streicher.

        • What we know: The police chief reports to the city manager; there has been no official discussion of his removal from office. Several times since the April riots, residents and activists have called for him to step down. Council members have said they do not believe firing Chief Streicher will help the situation.

Police union president

        • Demand: Fire police union President Keith Fangman.

        • What we know: Mr. Fangman is elected by fellow police officers to the position of union president. Neither the City Council nor the police chief have any say in who is elected president. They do not have the authority to fire him. Mr. Fangman acknowledged this week that officers are not making the same number of arrests that they did before the riot. After a sharp increase in shootings, Mr. Fangman last week said officers need more support from the community.
       

Police review panel

        • Demand: Give the Citizens Police Review Panel subpoena power, investigative power and additional staffing.

        • What we know: The panel is now charged with reviewing investigations of police officers already completed by the Office of Municipal Investigations and by the police Internal Investigations Section. The review panel has no investigative power. It can request that the city council subpoena witnesses, but the panel can't act on its own. Members for years have charged that police officials and the city manager have blocked their attempts to probe allegations of misconduct and have not supported them with resources. The Enquirer recently reported that police had not forwarded hundreds of complaints to the panel.
       

New city manager

        • Demand: That Betty Baker, an African-American who now serves as assistant city manager, be made city manager.

        • What we know: When this issue was raised months ago, Ms. Baker said she was not seeking that promotion. She has not made any official application for the post. After Mr. Shirey resigns in December, appointing a new city manager will be up to the mayor. Under the directly elected mayoral system, the mayor can name the city manager, who must be approved by city council.
       

Amnesty

        • Demand: Release and give amnesty to anyone arrested in connection with the “April rebellion.”

        • What we know: Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen has said he will cut no deals and will vigorously pursue charges against those arrested. Three months after the riots, 44 of the 66 felony cases stemming from the riots have made their way through the system. All but one of those were convicted. Twenty people have been sentenced to prison or jail terms ranging from 30 days to 15 months.
       

Neighborhood development

        • Demand: New community development goals and funding for those goals.

        • What we know: Before the riots city officials promised to make neighborhood development a key issue and had launched several programs to revitalize neighborhoods. However, officials said last week that funds for neighborhood business districts could be cut to make up for budget shortfalls. Officials said Saturday that $10 million slated for a postal hub in Bond Hill will now be directed to the city's general fund, now that the post office has backed out.
       

Racial profiling

        • Demand: Declare racial profiling illegal and stop its practice.

        • What we know: Racial profiling is illegal in the city. It was already against city policy when city council began discussing a new ordinance in February. That ordinance passed.
       

Federal court reforms

        • Demand: Federal judges should intervene and force changes on the Cincinnati Police Division and Hamilton County judicial system.

        • What we know: An independent mediator has been brought in to help settle a federal racial profiling lawsuit filed against the city. Officials have agreed to work with lawyers to craft settlements on several issues. The process will involve residents, lawyers, police and lawmakers. A federal judge is overseeing the process. The city's police division is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice. If investigators find police patterns and practices have violated civil rights, the Justice Department can sue to force reforms.
       

Youth work program

        • Demand: Give $2 million annually to the Citizens Committee on Youth for workplace development programs.

        • What we know: The Hamilton County Commission voted in March to pull $5.4 million in funding from the group after auditors cited questionable billing. The organization is being investigated by the county prosecutor's office for findings that CCY billed the county $156,000 for a program that cost just over $16,000 to operate. It also found CCY billed the county for students who were absent from its program. The CCY director maintains that the punishment did not fit the crime. He said the county has overreacted and has asked that funding be reinstated.

       



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