Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Police meeting to discuss trust

Session to bring debate in open

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After months of criticism of the Cincinnati Police Division and public debate over police-community relations, a survey shows officers want the same things other citizens do.

        Officers want:

        • Community-oriented policing developed.

        • Citizens' help addressing neighborhood problems.

        • Fair and equal treatment for everyone.

  The goals listed below were honed from survey answers given by 216 Cincinnati police officers and their families on how to improve police-community relations. Some of the officers who filled out surveys will participate in a session today to discuss the ideas.
  1. Enhance mutual respect, trust and communication between police officers and the community, with particular emphasis on youth.
  2. Further develop community-oriented policing.
  3. Ensure fair and equal treatment for all.
  4. Improve understanding of police policies and procedures as well as support for police.
  5. Encourage more citizens to help address problems in their neighborhoods.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        As part of the unprecedented effort to mediate a federal racial profiling lawsuit filed against Cincinnati in March, thousands have filled out surveys on how to improve police-community relations in a town that has been marred by riots and an explosive summer of violence.

        Two hundred sixteen officers and their family members have participated. And for the first time today, a fraction some of those officers will meet to publicly discuss ways to improve trust and communication between police and the public they serve.

        Aria Group, a Yellow Springs-based conflict resolution firm leading the mediation, will facilitate the meeting with officers from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. today at Christ Church Cathedral downtown.

        “I think it was imperative to get police participation,” said Scotty Johnson, presi dent of the Sentinel Police Association. “Now nobody can say they were left out.

        “The process is only going to work if those named in the lawsuit make an attempt to sit down and understand one another.”

        The ideas generated in feedback sessions such as these — already held for African-Americans, business leaders, city employees and others — will become part of the settlement agreement. Parties in the racial profiling lawsuit will begin to debate it in December or January.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        The process may eventually serve as a model for cities around the country looking for ways to solve similar problems.

        It was unclear at first how willing officers would be to participate.

        Despite a letter encouraging participation signed by Police Chief Tom Streicher, Spc. Johnson and Fraternal Order of Police president Keith Fangman, officers resisted — so much that the original session scheduled for Aug. 29 had to be canceled.

        And weeks of debate about whether they should be required to participate in the public eye culminated in approval by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott, who is overseeing the mediation, of some preliminary closed-door sessions. Today's session will be open.

        In one, about 40 members of the Sentinels gathered to discuss their ideas for improvement. They also chose three people to represent the organization in the debate portion of today's session.

        Aria officials also gave FOP members information about the process at another meeting.

        Members will be sharing their ideas, for the most part, for the first time this afternoon.

        “We've had very positive support from the top down,” said Brooke Hill, a spokeswoman for Aria.

        “It sort of shows that the bottom line is everyone wants a safe community. Maybe we just need to communicate a little better.”

        Mr. Fangman said he and others plan to present three key ideas at the session.

        One is to develop a citywide program to develop trust and respect for officers. Another is for Cincinnati schools to develop a curriculum and specific courses for teens on how to act when approached by an officer.

        Officers also want to make sure the Citizens Police Review Panel is fair and impartial.

        “It think all of us, the police division and community members, have had our fill of animosity and acrimony the last couple of years,” he said.

        “I think everybody is ready for a little reconciliation.”


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