Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Riots affected suit, lawyer says


Settlement said due to anti-police fears

By Dan Horn and Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Cincinnati lawyer says the city settled a lawsuit with two undercover drug investigators partly because officials feared the riots might have planted anti-police sentiment in jurors' minds.

        The settlement — agreed upon even before the city started its case — allows Cincinnati Police officers Thomas McDaniel and Gregory Kammer to return as partners to the Operation Street Corner drug unit.

        They'll also each be paid $120,000 for the pay they lost since they left the force two years ago.

        “There was some concern about what the jury might think,” said Mike Harmon, the assistant city solicitor who represented the city, five officers and Chief Tom Streicher.

        The chief had been considering rehiring the officers anyway, but had to stop the negotiations after the suit was filed, Mr. Harmon said.

        Other factors Mr. Harmon cited in settling even before the city started its case: to “make peace” within the specialized drug unit; the chief and others had missed many days of the three-week trial because of the riots and other work; and the possibility that those sued could have to pay punitive damages out of their own pockets.

        But Randy Freking, the offi cers' lawyers, said the settlement came after he had presented a strong case.

        A turning point: Chief Streicher testified Friday that he did not know about an April 1999 incident in which officers handcuffed Officer McDaniel after they found him in the apartment of a former confidential informant with whom he was having a relationship.

        Mr. Freking then showed the chief a document that said he authorized the action.

        The officers filed suit alleging they were punished by police officials for complaining about improper activities in the Operation Street Corner unit, including illegal search and seizures and improper changes to official documents.

        After notifying superiors of these issues, Mr. Freking said, his clients were split up as partners, involuntarily transferred from the anti-drug unit and saddled with negative performance reviews.

        Mr. McDaniel was never charged with a crime. An internal investigation could not prove the relationship with the informant was anything but consensual, though she had initially said he coerced her into having sex.

        As part of the settlement, the two men will receive an additional $120,000 if they choose to leave the police division for any reason.

        “Obviously they are somewhat fearful of retaliation,” Mr. Freking said. “That's what this case was all about.”

       



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