Friday, September 26, 2003

ACLU urges holster reports



By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has asked a federal judge to require Cincinnati police officers to file a report every time they remove their guns from their holsters.

The ACLU is pushing for the additional reporting despite a July 1 finding by court-appointed monitor Saul A. Green of Detroit that "there is not sufficient information to determine whether a pattern of improper firearms pointing exists."

But the ACLU says three years of complaints show a pattern: most incidents in which police pointed their weapons at suspects happened in African-American neighborhoods, and most involved "misidentification of suspects and overreacting to the victim's behavior."

The city denies the allegation. Its figures show that only five of the 46 complaints were sustained, with all five officers being disciplined. And that's out of about 80,000 arrests.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Merz of Dayton will decide the issue under the 2002 Collaborative Agreement on racial profiling.

The ACLU motion only recently came to light when Merz filed it in court records. It had been covered by a gag order imposed by U.S. District Judge Susan K. Dlott.

FOP president Roger Webster said the reporting resistance was "a safety issue."

"It's going to come down to we're going to bury a cop. It's a split second decision he's going to have to make, and he's going to hesitate a spilt second because he's thinking about a stupid form," Webster said.

But ACLU lawyer Kenneth L. Lawson said reporting is good management - and might have prevented some of the police shootings that ultimately led to the 2001 riots.

"If someone's taking their gun out 20 times a month, sooner or later there might be a shooting that's unjustified," he said.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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