Friday, October 19, 2001

Whites add to debate on police

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        They talked of living in diverse neighborhoods and of few interactions with blacks.

        Some expressed an empathy for those who experience things they do not and many wanted the community to take an active role in reducing crime.

   These are the goals listed by white citizens in Cincinnati who filled out surveys on how to improve police-community relations. Participants in a feedback session Thursday night developed and ranked them.
   1. Increase community accountability and responsibility for reducing misconduct and unlawful behavior.
   2. Develop positive citizen and police interaction to create mutual trust, understanding and shared responsibilities for public safety and peace.
   3. Change the culture of the Cincinnati Police Division by improving training, oversight and accountability in order to understand and apply the appropriate use of force.
   4. Foster greater understanding and acceptance of the diverse communities in Cincinnati to ensure fair and equal treatment for all its citizens.
   5. Foster greater mutual respect and understanding among all citizens in Cincinnati about the laws that govern us.
        Some simply wanted peace.

        About 30 white citizens gathered at Christ Church Cathedral downtown on Thursday night to share ideas on how the community and police can better get along.

        “If you and I trust each other,” said Terry Murray, 52 of Monfort Heights, “I'm not afraid of anything. That's what it comes down to.”

        More than 320 whites in Cincinnati filled out surveys on ways to improve police-community relations. And at Thursday night's meeting the group talked about and ranked a set of goals derived from those surveys.

        The session and others like it are part of an effort to mediate a federal racial profiling lawsuit filed against the city in March by the American Civil Liberties Union and local black activists.

        It accuses Cincinnati of decades of discrimination against blacks.

        Susan Gray of East Walnut Hills led one of the groups.

        “I spent summers with my grandfather, who was very sexist, very racist,” she said. “It was confusing to me as a child and yet it was clear to me, in my gut, that something was wrong.”

        She challenged his thinking and ultimately became a diversity consultant to help others work through the kinds of problems she was never allowed to voice.

        Groups of religious and social service leaders, youths, African-Americans and city employees have already had sessions.

        Three more groups will have similar programs next month: other minorities, business leaders and police officers.

        Once this process is complete, group representatives will meet again to debate a single set of goals, which will eventually become part of the unprecedented settlement agreement.


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