Tuesday, December 9, 2003

Arrest video spurs policy squabble

Police withhold tape until City Council views footage

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

DOWNTOWN - The information tug of war between some members of Cincinnati City Council and City Manager Valerie Lemmie continued Monday - this time over the cruiser videotape from a Sunday arrest in College Hill.

The Sunday incident came one week after the videotaped death of Nathaniel Jones in a struggle with Cincinnati police officers made national news. Following the Jones incident, five council members called for a new city policy forbidding the release of any information that hasn't been seen first by council members.

The most recent tape shows none of the struggle - only three officers bringing a handcuffed suspect over to the cruiser. Police charged Lamark Clifton, 24, with assaulting a police officer after he allegedly punched Officer Anthony Dawson in the face while Dawson was helping break up a fight near Hamilton and Cedar avenues. Dawson was treated at a hospital for a cut above his right eye.

Police refused to release the tape until all nine members of City Council had been given the opportunity to watch it. A number of television stations protested to Vice Mayor Alicia Reece, who had led efforts to clamp down on public information.

Reece interrupted a Finance Committee meeting to announce she, too, did not have the tape.

"I don't know what kind of situation is going on, or what kind of operation we're running," she said. She then distributed a copy of a public records request she sent the city manager asking to see the tape.

By 3 p.m., council members were allowed to see the tape.

Mayor Charlie Luken said he didn't quite understand all the fuss.

"Until council went off on its 'you-can't-release-information-until-we-see-it-first' kick, it wasn't a big deal around here," he said.

City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee will discuss new policies on the dissemination of information today.

--- E-mail gkorte@enquirer.com

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