Tuesday, February 26, 2002

City's response to Justice Department recommendations

By Dan Horn
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In October, the U.S. Department of Justice recommended dozens of changes in Cincinnati's police department as part of its “patterns and practices” investigation into possible civil rights violations.

These people Monday signed the joint status report reaffirming their commitment to try to settle the racial profiling lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati:

Sheila Adams, president of Urban League of Greater Cincinnati.
Greg Baker, assistant to the Cincinnati city manager.
Lt. Col. Rick Biehl, an assistant Cincinnati police chief.
Norma Holt Davis, president of the NAACP's Cincinnati chapter.
Pat DeWine, Cincinnati City Council member.
Keith Fangman, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Cincinnati.
Juleana Frierson, chief of staff for Cincinnati Black United Front.
Al Gerhardstein, an attorney for the plaintiffs.
Scott Greenwood, general counsel for the Ohio chapter of the ACLU.
Don Hardin, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police in Cincinnati.
Pete Heile, a deputy Cincinnati city solicitor.
Ken Lawson, lawyer for the original plaintiff in the case.
Steve Lazarus, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police in Cincinnati.
Charlie Luken, mayor of Cincinnati.
Damon Lynch III, president, Cincinnati Black United Front.
Billy Martin, a Washington, D.C., attorney hired by the city.
Alicia Reece, vice mayor of Cincinnati.
Iris Roley, a Cincinnati Black United Front member.
Jay Rothman, president of Aria Group, the firm leading mediation.
Lt. Col. Ron Twitty, an assistant Cincinnati police chief.
Roger Webster, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police in Cincinnati.
Bomani Tyehimba, original plaintiff in the lawsuit.

        On Monday, the city responded. Here's where the city agreed — and disagreed — on several key points:

Citizen complaints
               • Justice recommendation: The police department should create a pamphlet and make information available online about how citizens can file complaints against police officers.

        City response: The city agrees and will create such a pamphlet and will consider putting the information on its Web site.

        • Justice recommendation: Supervisors should get appropriate training in handling citizen complaints.

        City response: The city agrees and says that a two-hour training program started last year provides the needed training.

        • Justice recommendation: Eliminate the practice of encouraging citizens to appear in person at a police station to make a complaint. The policy may discourage people from filing complaints.

        City response: The city disagrees. Police believe the policy is a legitimate aid to a proper investigation, allowing supervisors to get first-hand information from the complaining citizen. Complaints are accepted regardless of whether citizens show up in person.

        • Justice recommendation: Officers guilty of serious misconduct should receive serious discipline, not just reprimands or other minor discipline.

        City response: The city agrees, but contends it already hands out serious discipline for serious infractions. The city will provide additional training to supervisors so they can better recognize serious problems and refer them to internal police investigators.


Use of force
               • Justice recommendation: The police department should revise its use of force policy to clarify ambiguous terms.

        City response: The city agrees and will remove or redefine ambiguous language. It also will remove language that states officers may use force to “perform their duty.” The revised policy will clearly state that officers may use force “reasonably necessary” to make an arrest or to protect themselves and others.

        • Justice recommendation: Police should not use choke holds unless the situation warrants the use of deadly force.

        City response: The city agrees. The policy will be revised to explicitly forbid choke holds except where the use of deadly force is appropriate.

        • Justice recommendation: Police should not use chemical spray on crowds without prior approval of supervisors. And the use of chemical spray on prisoners should be subject to the highest scrutiny.

        City response: The city agrees, but says those policies already are in place.

        • Justice recommendation: Police should adopt a “find and bark” policy, discouraging police dogs from biting suspects. The city also should track “bite ratios” that measure how often dogs bite suspects.

        City response: The city agrees. Police will amend procedures for how dogs are deployed in cases where there is significant risk of bites. Now, dogs will be deployed when suspects are wanted for felonies, an offense of violence or if they are suspected of being armed. The city also will begin tracking bite ratios.

        • Justice recommendation: Police should require officers to report any instance when they unholster their gun.

        City response: The city disagrees. Officers already are properly trained on when it is appropriate to brandish firearms. If they are required to report every time they unholster a gun, it would have a “chilling effect” that would adversely affect officer safety.


Monitoring and auditing
               • Justice recommendation: Police should create a system to track “trend data” about its officers, such as citizen complaints, uses of force and other information about performance. Such systems are often referred to as “early warning systems” because they help supervisors spot problems before they get out of hand.

        City response: The city agrees and already is tracking such data. The city also is considering a new records management system that would centralize all disciplinary information regarding officers. The projected cost for such a system ranges from $4 million to $7 million.

        • Justice recommendation: The city should track a wider variety of conduct by its officers, and it should standardize its auditing practices.

        City response: The city agrees and will soon expand tracking to include all complaints, vehicle pursuits, auto accidents, discharges of firearms, use of force and other items. The city also will begin conducting audits on a fixed schedule.

        • Justice recommendation: Internal police investigators should meet regularly with the prosecutor to identify problems in officer performance.

        City response: This already is standard practice.

        • Justice recommendation: The Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI) does not have sufficient staff to investigate serious misconduct by police.

        City response: The city is reviewing methods to strengthen the process of reviewing allegations of misconduct. This could mean major changes to OMI. The city has not yet completed its study, but a proposal will be forthcoming.


               • Justice recommendation: Police should provide more in-service training on use of force decision-making and weapon use.

        City response: The city agrees and already offers extensive training in these areas. Police will consider ways to enhance “force avoidance” training.

        • Justice recommendation: Officers should receive more firearms training and more training to simulate the conditions officers would face in the field.

        City response: Police already have added another day of firearms training for all officers each year. Police also are building an indoor target range that will improve training in “low-level light” conditions.

        • Justice recommendation: Training staff should meet with city solicitors every time a civil suit against police is settled.

        City response: The city agrees and will begin regular meetings to discuss pending and settled lawsuits.

        • Justice recommendation: Police should have more exposure to the policies, practices and procedures of other police departments.

        City response: The city agrees, but its ability to do so is limited by financial resources.


Police agree to make changes in procedures
- City's response to Justice Department recommendations
Complete text of police department response
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