Friday, October 26, 2001

Police report

Ignoring Feds serves no purpose The Feds have spoken.

        Now, the city must listen. And act. Or face the consequences.

        Department of Justice officials released preliminary findings Wednesday in their continuing investigation of Cincinnati's Police Division.

        The report — five months in the making — basically said: Clean up your house.

        Preliminary findings show the police need to: Improve training. Define official policy. Keep better records. Change procedures governing the use of physical force. Discipline officers uniformly. Revamp the complaint department. Increase communication internally and with the public. Serve the community.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        And one more thing: Stop needlessly sprayingMace and pointing guns at people.

        In essence, the report said, Cincinnati's police officers should be better cops. Train expertly. Act responsibly. Obey the law. Keep order. Respect citizens. Earn the public's respect.

        This is a wake-up call. There is no built-in snooze alarm the city can hit and go back to sleep.

        That's what the Feds are saying.

        But, public comments from city leaders make me wonder if they're listening.

Open minds?

        Some members of city council hope to hold public hearings on the report. They want to get the police division's side of the story.

        “There shouldn't be a rush to judgment,” said Councilman John Cranley, chairman of council's Law & Public Safety Committee.

        Keith Fangman, police union president, fears the report's recommended solutions could cost millions. Exorbitant funds would be spent on added police paperwork and hiring more officers to hit the streets while others push pencils. All this because some of the investigators' criticism comes from “misunderstandings” of the police.

        Mayor Charlie Luken did not buy the entire report. “Overall, it looked like they made constructive suggestions that we should take very seriously,” he said. “Others, I didn't think much of.”

Serious business

        The Feds take their recommendation-making very seriously. If the city — in its inimitable style — drags its feet and debates this issue to death, the federal government could take Cincinnati before a judge and ask for court-ordered police reforms. Justice officials did that in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. Columbus police are still in court. So, it can happen here.

        Cincinnati could spend hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars — dollars the city can ill afford to lose — in legal fees.

        Granted, making the suggested changes will cost time and money. Change never comes cheap.

        And not all of the recommendations are sound.

        Yet, this report is not something Cincinnati can treat lightly.

        The Justice Department is not one of those urban-design firms the city hires from time to time. Those consultants are paid good money — our tax dollars — to come up with solutions for improving downtown. Then, when they say something city council doesn't want to hear, their advice is ignored.

        There's no ignoring the Feds. Nor is there any reason.

        We're all in this together. As Wednesday's report clearly stated:

        “Our mutual goal” is providing “the best possible police service to the people of Cincinnati.”

        Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340; e-mail


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