Friday, October 26, 2001

Now it's time to act, critics advise police

Feds recommend improved training

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        City officials invited federal investigators to look into Cincinnati's policing practices; now those officials should heed investigators' advice, say critics of Cincinnati's police division.

        Representatives from Cincinnati Black United Front and the Citizens Police Review Panel called for city and law enforcement officials to accept and implement the Department of Justice's preliminary recommendations and not to resist them.

[photo] Discussing the Justice Department recommendations Thursday are the Rev. Damon Lynch III (left) and Ken Lawson. They spoke to reporters in Mr. Lawson's law office.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Attorney Ken Lawson, who represents Black United Front, praised the report, saying it was more detailed than he expected — particularly parts concerning the excessive use of chemical irritant by police.

        Mr. Lawson said that while he was glad the report confirmed so many citizens' concerns, “I don't want to give the impression that we are happy that the Justice Department found so many things wrong with our police department.

        “It's almost like having someone in your family confirming they have a habit,” he said.

        Mr. Lawson said city leaders and police should feel obligated to follow the recommendations even though no mandates were given by the Department of Justice,.

        “If the mayor called them (federal investigators) in, then he should follow their recommendations without any questions asked,” Mr. Lawson said.

        The Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of Black United Front, said that if city leaders are truly serious about change, they will not fall back on excuses of additional money and paperwork.

        “They said back in April that they would welcome the DOJ and open everything up and cooperate,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. “The findings are back. Now we look for the city and community to seriously fix what has been wrong.”

        What has been wrong, according to Justice investigators, is a lack of structure and training to ensure the proper use of force, and a lack of resources and clear mission for various agencies that perform oversight.

        “The police department's protocols and practices are out of control,” said Keith Borders, chairman of the Citizens Police Review Panel. “The report confirms the police division's policies and practices lack thoroughness, lack accuracy, and in fact, appear to be biased.”

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch, who also is co-chairman of Cincinnati Community Action Now, said the report provides a solid base for negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police and the city to settle a class-action racial profiling suit.

        Black United Front and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city in March, asking a federal court to end what they say has been 30 years of unchecked discrimination by police officers.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch said the Justice findings could lead to a written agreement on police reforms.

        “The report speaks to many issues that the African-American community has been crying out about for years,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said.

        Mr. Borders said he hopes the report will lead to a significant empowerment of the citizens review panel.

        The investigators recommended that there be a body outside the Cincinnati Police Division that investigates all serious allegations of misconduct. The Citizens Police Review Panel currently reviews investigations conducted by the police division and the Office of Municipal Investigations.

        “If after riots, if after negative international attention, this does not push police to make changes, nothing will, except a court order,” Mr. Borders said.

        “The citizens of Cincinnati have waited too long for simply reports and proposals. They want action. They want change and they want it today.”


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