Thursday, October 2, 2003

Monitor says police reform is slow

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The court-appointed monitor overseeing Cincinnati police reforms said Wednesday that progress is being made - but not as fast as it could be.

In his third quarterly report on the deal that settled lawsuits against the city and ended a federal probe of the police department, Saul Green said communication remains strained and ineffective.

That has left important elements of the settlement - including the establishment of a new community policing program - in flux. Green also noted continuing concerns over use-of-force policies, training programs and a police failure to input data that will be used to determine if there is bias in motor-vehicle stops.

But city officials contend Green's report doesn't fully acknowledge the work they have done.

"It doesn't give the city enough credit for the lead we are taking," said S. Gregory Baker, the city's executive manager of police relations. "The report reflects a significant amount of work in progress... We are working."

Six months after he criticized nearly everyone involved in the 2002 agreement for failing to get along and dragging feet on reforms, Green said Wednesday that new police policies are becoming operational.

"We are pleased to report continued progress," said Green, who is a former U.S. attorney in Detroit. "But the process of change takes time, and the transformation of an organization and its relations with the community involves many steps."

Green oversees two agreements. The first - between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice - requires major changes in the way police in Cincinnati do business. The second is a collaborative agreement designed to improve relations between police and the citizens they serve, especially minorities.

Green said it is critical for all the settlement parties - the police union, the city, the Department of Justice, and lawyers for African-American residents - to agree on a new policing system.

His 130-page report raised questions about several use-of-force issues. Among those are:

• Failure to note on reports whether suspects were warned before being sprayed with chemicals. Baker said this was a paperwork problem and has been fixed.

• Using chemical spray because a suspect spits on an officer.

• A continued review of canine units and reports involving police dogs biting suspects. Green said investigations have not been completed. However, he said, "We observed several (canine) training exercises and were impressed with the rigor of the training program."


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