Friday, October 12, 2001

Other police forces to be models

UC prof hired in racial profiling case

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        As thousands of Cincinnatians fill out surveys on how to improve police-community relations here, a local professor is researching the best police programs nationwide to show the city how it can be done.

        John Eck, a University of Cincinnati faculty member, has been hired by Aria Group, the mediation firm leading the unprecedented effort to settle a racial profiling lawsuit filed against the city.

Dr. Eck
Dr. Eck
        Dr. Eck and his research team will suggest ways to improve community policing in Cincinnati using other cities' successes as examples.

        His recommendations will be meshed with ideas submitted by citizens to create a settlement agreement to be presented to a federal judge in December.

        “We're trying to match what the citizens have said they want with programs we know have worked,” said Dr. Eck, a criminal justice expert.

        Five police departments have been identified as having promising programs: San Diego, Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis and Charlotte, N.C.

        “We're not far along enough yet to say they're (Cincinnati police programs) clearly deficient here or that they're clearly excelling here,” Dr. Eck said.

        But if residents say they want more involvement in police decision-making at the district level, researchers can point to how that's been done in Chicago. Or if the goal is to have more community confidence in policing, Minneapolis has a proven track record.

        The lawsuit, filed in March by black activists and the American Civil Liberties Union, accuses the city of decades of discrimination against African-Americans.

        As the process goes forward, Dr. Eck will begin to rate how well the division does two key things: communicates with the public and solves problems.

        “They're like the two parts of medicine,” Dr. Eck explained. “One is bedside manner and the other is dealing with the illness. You need both.”

        Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN), a race commission created by Mayor Charlie Luken after the April riots, and the National Conference for Community and Justice, will help Dr. Eck address other key areas such as recruitment, training, hiring and citizen complaints.

        By marrying citizens' ideas and the proven practices, Cincinnati will have a better chance at success, said Aria spokeswoman Brooke Hill. Aria has allocated up to $50,000 to pay for the work by Dr. Eck and his research assistants.

        Analysis of what programs the Cincinnati Police Division already has in place has begun. But beyond specialist officers assigned to districts, Dr. Eck wants to explore how beat cops enter into the mix.

        “Do they just arrest a lot of people or is there an exploration of non-criminal-justice solutions for problem-solving?” he said.

        The research team also will develop a long-term monitoring system to make sure the goals agreed upon in the settlement are met.

        At the very least, Dr. Eck said he expects an annual review. A large part will be statistical, but may also include surveys of the general public or people who have interacted with officers.

        “If the police know that this is coming up and can anticipate it, they can address (problems) earlier,” Dr. Eck said. “They can address it before people get too hot under the collar.”


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