Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Free pass

That party is not responsible

        While the rest of Cincinnati is dancing on the tables over a settlement that will collaborate us into a new era of peace, love and racial harmony, I feel like the wet blanket who tells everyone the keg is empty and the neighbors are dialing 911.

        The party is over.

        The lawsuit defendants, the city and the Fraternal Order of Police, have smoked the peace pipe with the plaintiffs, the Black United Front and the ACLU. But will the plaintiffs, who invited everyone to the party, stick around to clean up the empties?

        If the police do their part, what about the community half of the police-community relations problem?

        The deal holds the city and the cops accountable. In 30 pages of rules, it orders them to be more courteous; explain why people are stopped; and gather statistics on use of force, traffic stops and complaints. It requires surveys of citizens, cops and even lawbreakers, to find out if the police are polite.

Invisible friends

        But when you get past the loud music and peek into the fine-print kitchen, the Black United Front and the ACLU are not so accountable.

        (Neither are the generous “Friends of the Collaborative,” who are being asked by city officials to pay $600,000 in legal fees for the plaintiffs. If these corporate citizens think it's such a good deal, why do they refuse to publicly list the donors and the amounts solicited by city officials?)

        The plaintiffs are not even cited by name in the section called “Parties' Mutual Accountability and Responsibility for Evaluation Of the Implementation of the Agreement.”

        Instead, their responsibility is shifted to the “community.”

        Good luck on that.

        FOP President Roger Webster hopes, “The community is going to be responsible for its actions.”

        Plaintiffs' lawyer Ken Lawson said, “If the community doesn't do what it's supposed to do, we will become responsible for it.”

        But that doesn't mean the ACLU and the Black United Front have to stop pushing lawsuits and boycotts and help the police. They have agreed to teach young black males how to behave when stopped by cops. But they haven't agreed to stop calling cops “murderers and rapists.”

Well insulated

        “The term "mutual accountability plan' is defined as a plan that ensures that the conduct of the City, the police administration, members of the Cincinnati Police Department and members of the general public are closely monitored so that the favorable and unfavorable conduct of all is fully documented,” the deal says.

        But what if “general public” refuses to salute? The coordinator can tell the conciliator, who can tell the monitor, who can tell the Justice Department and courts — who can immediately do nothing.

        This deal has more layers of insulation than an expedition to the North Pole.

        “What are you going to do, hold the community in contempt of court?” asks City Councilman Pat DeWine. Good question.

        I'd love to join the party.

        But what looks so attractive at 3 a.m. can cause a lot of headaches on the morning after.
        E-mail or call 768-8301.


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