Wednesday, January 23, 2002

As police inquiry nears end, oversight becomes key issue

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Long-term oversight has become a key issue as Cincinnati city lawyers negotiate a resolution to the federal inquiry on use of force by city police officers.

        After meeting with city lawyers Tuesday, Mayor Charlie Luken said he expects a tentative agreement to go to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee as early as March 5.

        “The issue may come down to this: How do you oversee it? Who determines whether you're in compliance? Is it the Justice Department or is it the court or is it someone else?” the mayor said.

        The Justice Department has told the city's lawyers that it doesn't want to have a continuing presence in Cincinnati, the mayor said. And few city officials relish the thought of having the police department under the eye of a federal judge.

        In two notable cases — in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. — the Justice Department has agreed to a “memorandum of understanding” in which outside consultants monitor police reform.

        Billy Martin, the Washington, D.C., lawyer representing the city in the nine-month-old federal probe, met privately with Mr. Luken and council members Tuesday.

        Councilman Pat DeWine, chairman of the law committee, said the city is still considering its options.

        “I think what kind of monitoring we'll have is one of the big questions right now,” Mr. DeWine said. “I think it's important that there be a time frame on that monitoring, so that we don't have federal oversight forever and ever.”

        Justice Department officials declined to comment.


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