Friday, November 16, 2001

'Other' groups have their say

Mediation enters home stretch

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A session to gather input on how to improve police-community relations in Cincinnati represented a wide mix of minority communities from across the city on Thursday.

        The session at Christ Church Cathedral downtown was the last in a series of eight that are part of an effort to mediate a racial profiling lawsuit filed against the city.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        In a small, third-floor room, people representing Appalachians, gays and lesbians, Hispanics and Jews met to talk about their experiences with police.

        Walter Solomon, 41, of Loveland, works in Over-the-Rhine.

        “I really believe that the problems that exist are solvable,” he said. “We've got to decide which problems we're going to fix and then solve them one at a time.”

        The session was put on by Aria Group, a Yellow Springs-based conflict resolution firm that is leading the mediation process.

        The American Civil Liberties Union and local black activists sued the city in March alleging decades of discrimination against blacks. Instead of litigation, a federal judge suggested the parties try mediation first.

        So since March, Aria has gathered thousands of surveys on how to improve police-community relations. The surveys have come from African-Americans, business leaders, white citizens, youths and others.

        Then, Aria asked those participants to attend meetings to further discuss those goals.

        More than 180 people in the group Aria calls “other minorities” — the group that met Thursday night — filled out surveys.

        Al Ball, a police officer in Woodlawn, represented both Hispanic and Appalachian groups.

        “I think it's positive,” he said of the session, adding that he hopes more partnerships between the police and the community can be built because of the mediation.

        The next step is for all the ideas — as well as research of best police practices nationwide — to form a settlement that parties to the lawsuit will debate in December or January.

        That agreement will be presented to U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott in February for approval.


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