Wednesday, April 10, 2002

ACLU adds its Y-E-S to deal

By Kristina Goetz,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The word “tentative” no longer applies to the settlement deal in the racial profiling lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati.

        The statewide board of the American Civil Liberties Union on Tuesday was the last to announce its vote accepting the agreement — one that would usher in sweeping changes of the Cincinnati Police Department and emphasize greater community involvement.

[photo] Scott Greenwood (right), general counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union's Ohio chapter, and attorney Al Gerhardstein talk Tuesday about the ACLU's action.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        City Council, members of the Fraternal Order of Police and representatives of the civil rights group Cincinnati Black United Front voted in the past few days to accept the measure.

        “This really is a historic day in Cincinnati because we will be embarking on a new era of policing,” said Scott Greenwood, general counsel for the ACLU's Ohio chapter, as he stood on the front steps of City Hall.

        Before week's end, the parties will begin the process to ask for approval from the federal court.

        First, a joint motion will be filed to certify the lawsuit as a class action, which means the settlement will represent all African-Americans in the city. Then, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott will set a date for a final hearing on whether the settlement is fair. The hearing will be in about 45 days.

    All parties involved in the racial profiling lawsuit against the city have voted to accept a settlement. The next steps:
    • This week, the parties will start the process of asking the federal court to approve the settlement.
    • Within about 45 days of the agreement's signing, U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott will hold a fairness hearing.
    • Within 150 days of the signing, a monitor will be selected to oversee the agreement.
        “Though at present I have no opinion on the fairness of the settlement agreement itself, it certainly has been a pleasure to work with such talented and dedicated people,” Judge Dlott said.

        Judge Dlott had set Tuesday as the final day to reach a settlement in the case. If the parties hadn't agreed, the case would have returned to federal court.

        The ACLU has filed almost 20 bias-based law enforcement lawsuits across the country, but none has involved such community input as the one in Cincinnati. As part of the settlement effort, more than 3,500 citizens were asked to share ideas on how to improve police-community relations.

        “What it could mean, potentially, is something good, a very good model to try to apply in these types if cases,” said Reginald Shuford, an attorney at the ACLU's national headquarters in New York.

        “To the extent that you get the community and the police on the other side to buy into the process ... the more likely it is that you reach success.”

        U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft will be in Cincinnati on Friday to endorse a separate agreement between the U.S. Justice Department and the city, a large chunk of which is also in the profiling settlement.

        In the Justice Department agreement, the city further accepted new restrictions on police use of force and created a new civilian oversight authority.

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