Thursday, April 04, 2002

Agencies' members embrace change

By Robert Anglen,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati officials have agreed to scrap the only two independent agencies charged with investigating complaints of police misconduct.

        But members of those civilian oversight agencies said Wednesday they're not protesting the move. They're convinced they can better do their jobs under a restructured system.

        “Although they are abolishing both bodies, this creates an opportunity for civilian review,” said Steven Tutt, a member of the Citizens Police Review Panel. “It can be a good thing.”

        Under a four-way deal between city administrators, the police union, civil-rights advocates and the U.S. Department of Justice, officials are promising to scrap the review panel and the Office of Municipal Investigation.

        The agencies will be replaced by the Citizen Complaint Authority, which will not only investigate complaints but look for patterns of police misconduct.

        Mr. Tutt says members of the police panel have been asked by Mayor Charlie Luken if they would be a part of the new authority.

        Two weeks ago, members of the review panel voted to suspend public operations in protest of their treatment by city administrators. They said that since it started in 1998, the panel has never been adequately funded and was recently stripped of its office and staff.

        “I hope this will be used as an opportunity,” said panel member Nancy Minson. “Certain things need to change. We need more teeth, more staffing ... all the things that make citizen oversight more effective.”

        Acting OMI Director Mark Gissner described the plan as a merger, not an elimination.

        OMI investigates allegations of misconduct involving all city employees, including police. It is different from CPRP in that it has investigatory powers and makes recommendations of discipline to the city manager.

        “I think there has been a disconnect between CPRP and OMI and the police department in resolving citizen complaints,” said Mr. Gissner, who started with OMI just after it was formed in 1981.

        Mr. Gissner said he expects OMI's five full-time investigators to be included in the new authority.


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