Thursday, November 14, 2002

Lesson learned: Sides must work together

Episode leaves parties calling for specific monitor contract

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The man who was to monitor Cincinnati's police-reform agreements didn't last long, losing points quickly for everything from his attitude to his monetary demands.

The resignation Wednesday of Dr. Alan Kalmanoff ended the controversy exacerbated a week ago by his first bill: $55,000, including time for packing his suitcase.

The anti-Kalmanoff blowup at City Hall focused on money, but others involved say the problems with the Berkeley, Calif., criminal justice expert were about much more.

This false start won't be repeated, they say, as long as everyone involved embraces this lesson from the Kalmanoff debacle:

More communication.

"It went wrong because the parties were not involved with Dr. Kalmanoff from the beginning,'' said Al Gerhardstein, a lawyer for the Cincinnati Black United Front.

The black activist group's allegations of decades of poor treatment of blacks by Cincinnati officers sparked what has become the first-of-its-kind collaborative agreement involving the city, U.S. Department of Justice, Black United Front and American Civil Liberties Union.

Dr. Kalmanoff was chosen by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott after the Justice Department and collaborative members could not agree on a monitor.

The resignation, Mr. Gerhardstein said, "will certainly be a lesson to us to try and agree on a monitor the next time.''

It's unfortunate, Mr. Gerhardstein said, that the city went so high-profile in its displeasure with Dr. Kalmanoff. Mayor Charlie Luken sent e-mails to the man, repeatedly saying that he should STOP working NOW and that he wasn't going to be paid.

"Let's remember this: we have to work together,'' Mr. Gerhardstein said.

Dr. Kalmanoff didn't communicate either, he said. In fact, some of the parties in the collaborative agreement had been trying to come up with a way to pay his bill. Instead, Dr. Kalmanoff submitted the $55,000 tab to City Hall.

"He just didn't check in with us,'' Mr. Gerhardstein said. "This agreement is truly a grass-roots effort. The parties need to be plugged in to the process.''

City officials weren't too plugged in either, as it turned out. They neither expected a bill, nor understood the kinds of things they would be paying for.

That, said Councilman Pat DeWine, is because the bill - including $25 for stopping by the mayor's office when he wasn't in and $150 for an interview with a reporter - came before a contract was settled upon.

"Everyone needs to understand from the outset that fees are going to be important for the city,'' Mr. DeWine said.

"I don't think the next monitor should begin work without a contract with the city.''

There's some disagreement there. Mr. Gerhardstein said the contract shouldn't be with the city alone, it should be an agreement everyone agrees to and understands.

In Pittsburgh, all the parties involved in police reform there don't always agree with monitor James Ginger, but they respect him, said Vic Walczak, director of the ACLU there. That started with the rank-and-file officers, he said, because Mr. Ginger was a former police officer.

"There are a lot of people out there who do this kind of work,'' Mr. Walczak said. "But you don't want officers saying, `This is an ivory tower guy. He doesn't understand this real-world stuff.'"

Cincinnati's police command staff met last week with Dr. Kal. They asked about his plan and what they could expect next.

"We've been kind of trying to shoot at a moving target,'' said Capt. Vince Demasi. "We were asking, `What's your timeline? When are we going to get some guidance? But he didn't answer any of our questions.'"

Others were annoyed that Dr. Kalmanoff interviewed Lt. Col. Ron Twitty, who's retiring as part of a no-contest plea in the criminal case over damage to his city-owned car. Dr. Kalmanoff said he did so because Col. Twitty is the department's highest-ranking African-American.

"I told him I was offended by that,'' said Capt. Greg Snider. "I said, `Why would you meet with him instead of all of us?'"

In Pittsburgh, the ACLU was not a direct party to the reforms and oversight, but has been in the loop because the Justice Department and others involved keep it that way.

"They want our buy-in,'' Mr. Walczak said. "The judge recognized the only way to make progress is to have all the parties participate.''

The monitor "is very important,'' he added. "I've been involved in a lot of cases where it just doesn't work. It's a very difficult thing to do and not everyone's suited to it.''

Mr. Luken said Wednesday the Kalmanoff days might actually move the collaborative parties closer and make the future process go more smoothly.

"My sense is that as a result of this process, we have a clearer understanding of what we want from the monitor,'' he said. "Strangely, it may make it easier for the parties to come together."

Enquirer reporter Gregory Korte contributed. E-mail


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