Saturday, December 6, 2003

Citizens group in some disarray


But it assures solid review of Jones case

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The police watchdog agency that will investigate the death of Nathaniel Jones has been without a permanent director since June and has never had a full complement of investigators.

Members of the Citizen Complaint Authority said the lack of consistent leadership at the agency has been troubling, but said it won't prevent a thorough and expeditious investigation of whether police acted appropriately in arresting Jones Sunday morning.

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ABOUT THE AGENCY
The Cincinnati Citizen Complaint Authority is a permanent layer of oversight for the Cincinnati Police Department.

Seven trained board members, with a staff of full-time investigators, hear complaints of police misconduct, identify trends and make recommendations to the city manager.

Here are the members appointed by the mayor:

• Walter T. Bowers II, physician, Clifton

• Sandra A. Butler, real-estate agent, Oakley

• John Eby, electrical engineer, Westwood

• Marta Camille Anderson Haamid, retired federal probation officer, Clifton

• Nancy Minson, mental-health advocate, Walnut Hills

• Richard D. Siegel, lawyer, Clifton

• Justin Wolterman, college student, University Heights

The authority has an interim director and four full-time investigators.

• Daniel Baker is the interim director. He served 25 years in the Dayton Police Department, rising to the rank of lieutenant before retiring in 1989. He founded and led its hostage negotiation team. Since retiring, he has worked in nuclear security for the U.S. Department of Energy and has been consulted by state and local police agencies about training and tactics.

• Gregory Pychewicz, a retired investigator for the Columbus Police Department. During his 25 years on the force, he served 21 years as a detective in the juvenile, theft and intelligence bureaus.

• Kenneth Glenn, a retired sergeant from the Detroit Police Department. There, he was assigned to the Law Department, where he worked with city attorneys to investigate lawsuits against the Police Department. As a supervisor, he also reviewed internal investigations of police misconduct.

• David Moonitz, a retired Hamilton County sheriff's deputy. In his 25 years, he rose to the rank of lieutenant, and was the executive officer of the Criminal Investigations Unit, which supervised internal investigations. He was the training officer and police academy commander for three years before retiring. Since then, he has worked as an insurance fraud investigator, and a probation officer.

• Diedre Larkins, a former probation officer and corrections officer. At the Greene County Adult Probation Department, she performed pre-sentence and child-custody investigations. She was also a corrections officer in Florida and most recently worked for a private mediation service.

"We've got issues, and we need to work them out," said Nancy Minson, a mental health professional who is chairwoman of the panel.

"Everybody's frustrated about it."

The Jones case will be the most complicated and high-profile case ever investigated by the year-old agency.

In June, it cleared Officer Michael Schulte of any wrongdoing in the Feb. 8 fatal shooting of Andre Sherrer, a 34-year-old burglary suspect in Northside.

The agency was on the scene of the North Avondale incident within 90 minutes of Jones' struggle with police Sunday morning. Kenneth Glenn and David Moonitz are the lead investigators.

They are beginning to talk to non-police witnesses, but cannot talk to police officers until homicide investigators and the Hamilton County prosecutor decide whether to pursue criminal charges.

Their primary mission will be to determine whether police followed the city's use-of-force policies in subduing Jones, and to present those findings to the seven-member citizen board within 90 days. If so, the board can recommend discipline to the city manager.

But unlike its predecessors - the Office of Municipal Investigation and the Citizens Police Review Panel - the board is also empowered to suggest policy changes.

Board members said they have confidence the Jones case will get the scrutiny it deserves, but worry about what cost it will have on less-pressing complaints.

"We'll definitely have our best investigators in there. The problem, really, is volume. We get 40 complaints a month," said board member John Eby.

"Not only do we have to make sure this case gets done, but every case behind them.

"We need to get a director as soon as we can. But that's not up to us.

"I know they're working hard on that. The city manager and the parties have to agree, and they'll tell you that's a long process," Eby said.

Finding a director

Board members say the agency was just beginning to find its footing when director Nathanael L. Ford retired suddenly in June, citing a desire to move closer to family in Toledo.

He had been on the job just five months.

City Manager Valerie Lemmie turned to Daniel Baker, a former Dayton, Ohio, police lieutenant who helped get the agency started before Ford's arrival, to be a part-time interim director.

Baker commuted several days a week from Springfield, and said he wasn't interested in the permanent job.

Then Baker had knee surgery Sunday; he won't be back to a full schedule until January.

Lemmie has hired the Angus Group - the Cincinnati executive search firm that recruited her from Dayton in 2002 - to find a new director. Ted Plattenberg, a principal in the firm, said the new director's hiring is 30 to 60 days away.

"It's a national search, and a lot of people are very aware of what we're trying to do here. They've been reading about it in the newspaper, and are curious about it," Plattenberg said.

"Other cities are looking at us, trying to figure out how we're going to solve our problems - because we hit the tripwire before they did."

As with Ford's hiring, Lemmie promises to give the other parties in the Collaborative Agreement - the Fraternal Order of Police and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio - veto power over the selection.

Until then, the agency is focusing on what Baker calls "critical-path activities."

"Like any organization, there are some things you can defer and work around, and there are some things you can't," he said. Strategic planning, an annual report, and the hiring of a fifth investigator can be put off, he said.

A Cincinnati lawyer for the ACLU, the plaintiff in the federal racial-profiling lawsuit that helped lead to the agency's creation, said the organization lacks stability.

"My strong preference would be to have a strong executive director on board right now," said Scott Greenwood. "It's unfortunate what happened with Nate Ford. He was the right kind of leader at the right time, and his departure created a big gaping hole."

But Lemmie and Mayor Charlie Luken made clear this week that the agency's short-term problems should not be an excuse for anything less than a full and prompt investigation. The board can grant extensions to the 90-day deadline, and did so with the Sherrer case.

E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com




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