Tuesday, April 29, 2003

FOP might withdraw from collaborative

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police will hold a press conference at 10 a.m. today, and union officials said they will make a "major announcement" concerning their involvement in the city's collaborative agreement to reform the police department.

FOP president Roger Webster and vice president Keith Fangman both refused to comment on whether there was an FOP meeting or vote Monday night regarding the collaborative, and on what would be discussed today.

But attorney Ken Lawson, who represents the plaintiff class in the agreement, said Monday that it appears the FOP will try to pull out of the police reform accord. He said the prospect of the FOP pulling out came to his attention Thursday.

"I don't think legally they could get out," Lawson said. "I would like to see them stay involved, but the bottom line is that it is not going to affect the collaborative.

"I don't think it's a smart move to even try," he said. "By walking away from the table they are taking away their ability to have any say in how they do their jobs. Because even if they get out, they are still going to have to follow what is laid out in the collaborative."

The Cincinnati Black United Front announced last month that it was pulling out of the landmark agreement to focus on expanding its 21-month-old boycott of downtown Cincinnati. The Black United Front was a class representative for the 140,000-plus plaintiffs included in the class-action racial profiling lawsuit that was part of the agreement, a class that Lawson still represents.

Lawson said an issue of contention for the past six months with the FOP has been how police should be able to file complaints against citizens. Lawson said FOP representatives wanted to be able to take down names, addresses and other identifiers when complaining about residents who are disrespectful to police when they are on the streets.

This information would be compiled into a file so police could track individuals who are consistently abusive to officers, Lawson said.

Lawson said the collaborative does allow for police to gather certain types of information for the complaint process, but it does not allow them to take down personal information such as names and addresses.

Lawson said he sees the FOP's potential pullout as another attempt to discredit the collaborative.

Lawson even questioned whether City Council played a hand in the FOP's sudden decision to try to withdraw.

"I smell a skunk," Lawson said.

Jane Prendergast contributed to this report.

E-mail kaldridge@enquirer.com

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