Saturday, November 9, 2002

Former officer sues Cincinnati

By Dan Horn
and Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A former Cincinnati police officer claimed in a lawsuit Friday that city officials routinely target African-American officers with false charges and unfair discipline in an effort to run them out of the police department.

In a $40 million lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court, Aaron Taylor accuses his former bosses of a "pattern and practice" of using trumped up criminal charges to force black officers to retire or resign.

Mr. Taylor, a 22-year police veteran, said he was a victim of that pattern when he was charged this year with taking funds meant for disadvantaged children and using them for a nonprofit group that he oversaw in Roselawn.

"I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to rebuild my credibility and character, which has been destroyed by the Cincinnati Police Department," Mr. Taylor said Friday.

Prosecutors dropped all charges against Mr. Taylor last month after he agreed to retire from the police department. The nonprofit group, the Roselawn Substation Support Group, pleaded guilty to two counts of tampering with records and was fined $3,500.

Mr. Taylor said the accusations against him and the nonprofit were untrue and were part of a conspiracy intended to terminate his employment.

Instead of stealing money, Mr. Taylor said, he actually spent his own money to sustain the program for disadvantaged children, known as the Scouting and Community Oriented Policing Effort (SCOPE). The mentoring program paired inner-city youths with police officers.

The lawsuit states that Mr. Taylor's bosses, including Police Chief Tom Streicher, accepted numerous awards for the program's good works even as they failed to provide adequate funding for it.

Mr. Taylor said he dipped into his own bank account several times to keep the program going.

His superiors began to question his bookkeeping and, late last year, launched an internal affairs investigation. They also targeted another SCOPE volunteer, Steve Bonnell.

Mr. Bonnell, who also is suing the city and police department, said Friday that police investigators slandered him by suggesting he was a child molester. He said police hoped the false accusations would raise questions about his work at SCOPE.

"This was malicious. This was vindictive," Mr. Bonnell said Friday. "The police division and prosecutors must be held accountable."

Prosecutor Mike Allen and lawyers for the city declined comment Friday, saying they had not seen the lawsuit.

Although prosecutors are not named as defendants in the lawsuit, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Bonnell said prosecutors sought criminal charges that they knew were not justified. The goal, Mr. Taylor said, was to file so many charges that the defendants would be compelled to accept a guilty plea to lesser charges.

"They were like a pit bull, and I don't mean that as tenacious, I mean that as dumb," Mr. Taylor said in an interview this week. "Once they bite onto something, their jaws automatically lock and they don't know how to turn loose."

Mr. Taylor said he refused to accept a plea to lesser charges, which led prosecutors to offer the deal in which the nonprofit group pleaded guilty.

"The prosecution didn't want the case to go to trial," Mr. Taylor said. "They were running away from this case with their tail between their legs."


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