Wednesday, November 21, 2001

City denies police more time

Council wants answers on U.S. investigation

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The Cincinnati Police Division has asked top city officials for more time to go over the U.S. Justice Department's investigation into their policies and procedures before a public hearing at City Council on Monday.

        They won't get it.

        Mayor Charlie Luken and Councilman John Cranley, who heads the Law and Public Safety Committee, said Tuesday they're still expecting a full report from the Police Division next week.

        “I want a full explanation of what the process is. If I don't know what it is, how can I expect the public to know?” Mr. Luken said. “The perception is that we're not acting on the Justice Department recommendations.”

        Mr. Luken's comments came after a 30-minute, closed-door meeting with police and safety officials and the city manager Tuesday.

        Police Chief Tom Streicher declined to comment afterward.

        “I'm not here to discuss it with you, to be honest,” he said after the meeting.

        Mr. Cranley said the meeting was friendly, but that the Police Division asked that it be given two or three more months to prepare its response to the 23-page federal report.

        That probe, initiated at the request of Mr. Luken, resulted in a preliminary report last month that faulted police policies on the use of force, including how officers use pepper spray, the use of police dogs and the under-reporting of incidents in which officers used or showed force.

        The City Council hearing next week — and the Police Division's response to it — reveals a turf war at City Hall over who will be ultimately responsible for resolving the civil rights issues facing the division.

        “I do not want the federal government setting policy in the Police Division,” Mr. Cranley said. “City Council members are elected to have the political will to make changes where necessary. And the Police Division needs a full and fair opportunity to explain their internal policies before this whole thing gets blown out of proportion.”

        Mr. Luken said the city's response to the Justice Department recommendations will likely go through the same mediation process being used to settle a racial profiling lawsuit against the city.

        Both the Police Division and a group of civil rights leaders — who met with the mayor Monday — support that concept, he said.

        “The only problem is, they haven't talked about specifics yet,” Mr. Luken said. “It's called the rubber meeting the road, and once that happens, I'm not sure everyone's still going to be on the same page.”


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