Saturday, September 22, 2001

Blacks to discuss city goals

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        African-Americans in Cincinnati will have their say today on how they want the city to improve its police-community relations.

        More than 680 black Cincinnatians filled out surveys designed by the Aria Group, a Yellow Springs, Ohio-based conflict resolution firm. The surveys were the first step in a mediation process to settle a federal lawsuit filed in March accusing the city of decades of discrimination against black people.

        Today, a small number of those who filled out surveys will meet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at New Friendship Baptist Church in Avondale for the second phase of the process.

        “Anything that's going to open up communication has to be positive,” said Dorothy Harris, a 61-year-old retired military and Veterans Affairs nurse from College Hill.

        African-Americans who filled out the surveys have expressed a desire to promote equal treatment for everyone in the city.

        Braxton Cann, a 44-year-old systems analyst for Fifth Third Bank, said in his survey that he wants to spend more time with neighborhood officers to see what shapes their perceptions.

        “Even with the police I know and admire,” the Over-the-Rhine man wrote, “it's difficult to grasp how they rationalize some of the assumptions they carry around about residents and our neighborhood in general.”

        Survey respondents said they also want more understanding between the police and the public, and structural reform to increase oversight and accountability.

        The Aria Group organized its survey process by identifying eight “identity” groups from which it wants ideas, including youths, police officers, business people and African-Americans.

        Today's meeting is the third in the series designed to sharpen and rank a set of goals, which will become part of a settlement agreement to be presented to a federal judge in December.

        Feedback sessions for youth as well as religious and social service groups have already been held.

        “It's the quality, not the quantity,” said Aria Group spokeswoman Brooke Hill of today's expected attendance. “We'll feel real comfortable if we have a minimum of 50 people there.”

        Aria Group professionals were pleased with the survey responses they received.

        “The visions shared are meaningful, and in light of the trauma all Americans are feeling now, this group provides hope that rational collaboration and cooperation are still possible in a world that sometimes feels without reason, ” said Aria Group president Jay Rothman.


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