Friday, April 05, 2002

Officers voting on proposed settlement


If union rejects agreement, city could land in court

By Jane Prendergast, jprendergast@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati police officers continued voting today on a proposed settlement hammered out with the U.S. Department of Justice and plaintiffs in a racial-profiling lawsuit.

        The 1,020 officers make up the biggest voting group to weigh in on the 60 pages of proposals.

        The rank-and-file officers are the constituents who stand to be most directly affected day-to-day by the settlement.

        If the simple union majority vote rejects the agreement, the mediation settlement worked out over the past year will dissolve and the city would be back in court with the Black United Front and American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio. The Justice Department also could take the city to court, said Scott Greenwood, ACLU general counsel.

        “If the FOP turns down this agreement, which is being brought to them with the recommendation of their president and long-time attorney, they will be rejecting an opportunity that no other police force in America has ever had,” he said.

        Neither FOP President Roger Webster nor Vice President Keith Fangman returned calls Thursday. Officer Fangman said Wednesday that results would be available Saturday night, after the last of 12 informational meetings the union held starting Thursday.

        Officers leaving the union hall Thursday afternoon would not discuss what they heard.

        “Some have said they've voted for it, some have said they've voted against it,” said Capt. David Ratliff, District 4 commander.

        Capt. James Whalen, head of the department's inspections section, visited roll calls Wednesday to explain the proposals. Officers asked a lot of questions, he said, including about a new officer-tracking system, changes in using police dogs and when they would be able to use less-than-lethal weapons options like the bean-bag gun.

        He explained that the points-system “matrix” sug gested last year to track officer behavior has been scrapped. It drew a lot of concern from the FOP, which argued that good behavior should be included, too, and that assigning points to various behaviors was too arbitrary. A new Risk Management System will be more comprehensive and include awards and commendations, he said.

        The proposed policy on foot pursuits also drew questions. It says officers must “consider” factors such as location and lighting before chasing a suspect, but does not mandate anything more specific.

        “They'd heard some of the worst-case scenarios,” Capt. Whalen said. “We just wanted to get out and give them the straight story. I gave them my opinion that it was very acceptable.”

Related stories:
City Council prepared to ratify deal
To boycotters, settlement satisfies few demands
Adding up the costs of police settlement
Deal answers some of boycott demands

       



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