Friday, August 03, 2001

Goal: policing without bias

Conference looks to Cincinnati for some lessons

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati will host a national conference on how police can work without bias.

        Organized by the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the University of Cincinnati's criminal justice department, the Sept. 17-18 conference is being advertised now to Tristate law-enforcement agencies. As many as 300 are expected to attend to learn how to put prejudice aside before they come to work.

        “This is not an attack on the city of Cincinnati,” said Ron Davis, a NOBLE vice president and Oakland, Calif., police captain. “We want to turn it into something where we take lessons from Cincinnati ... so other cities don't have to go through this, too.”

        Cincinnati officers have been collecting racial data from traffic stops since May 7. The city, sued by the ACLU and Cincinnati Black United Front for what the groups call 30 years of mistreatment of black people, are trying to work out a plan through extensive mediation.

        Among the conference participants: U.S. Rep. John Conyers, the Michigan Democrat promoting a bill to ban racial profiling; representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Police Executive Research Forum, International Association of Chiefs of Police and the Police Foundation; and chiefs from Arlington, Va., San Jose, Calif. and Montgomery County, Md.

        Washington, D.C., Police Chief Charles Ramsey and Cincinnati Chief Tom Streicher also have been invited.

        “I'd love to have the city get involved with us,” Capt. Davis said. “That sends a message to this country.”

        The classes will not promote “cop-bashing,” he said. Instead, they'll present ways — through discipline, training and other administrative actions — that police agencies can teach officers to “put blinders on” their biases.

        “Bias enters into everything we do,” Capt. Davis said. “So the question is, how do we establish these blinders to prevent it?”

        The national cable channel Court TV will broadcast a town hall meeting-type show during the conference with panels of experts talking about race and policing.


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