Wednesday, December 05, 2001

City Council warns profiling suit plaintiffs

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati City Council put the plaintiffs in a racial profiling lawsuit against the city on notice Tuesday: Negotiate in good faith or the city will withdraw from the groundbreaking collaborative attempting to mediate the dispute.

        A majority of council members also want to implement the recommendations of a U.S. Justice Department report on the police use of force directly, without going through the mediation process.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        But Jay Rothman, the Yellow Springs-based mediator overseeing the collaborative, said City Council's action would have no effect on the group's progress.

        He said the proposed settlement from the collaborative would reflect recommendations from many sources, including the Justice Department report.

        That report, released in October, found problems with the Police Division's record-keeping, training and use of Mace and attack dogs.

        “We're in a dance here together, and if City Council wants to dance a certain way, that's fine. They'll dance their way and we'll dance our way,” Mr. Rothman said.

        The council action comes in the form of a motion signed by five members and is scheduled to be voted on today. The five supporters are John Cranley, Pat DeWine, Chris Monzel, David Pepper and Jim Tarbell.

        Council members had varied motives for the move, which included:

        • Immediacy. “These are life-and-death issues,” said Mr. Cranley. “It seems to me that they are so important that they ought to be dealt with separately.”

        • Protection of taxpayers. The GOP councilmen, Mr. Monzel and Mr. DeWine, said that allowing the plaintiffs' attorneys to negotiate the use of force policies would only serve to increase their fees — fees that taxpayers would be responsible for if the plaintiffs prevail.

        • Lack of good faith. Many council members resented statements from the Black United Front, which last month held a rally on the courthouse steps criticizing the city for not moving more quickly on the Justice Department recommendations.

        Two weeks later, the Black United Front urged City Council not to implement those recommendations until the collaborative finishes its work next year.

        The council action also comes the day after Mayor Charlie Luken dismissed the Rev. Damon Lynch III, an Over-the-Rhine pastor and president of the Black United Front, from his race relations commission. The Rev. Mr. Lynch had signed his name to a letter calling police officers killers and rapists and urging a boycott of the city.

        Mr. DeWine said the city shouldn't be negotiating police policy with someone taking such a stance.

        Juleana Frierson, the chief of staff for the Black United Front, said the group had no comment on the council action other than that “both sides need to negotiate in good faith.” She declined to elaborate.


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