Thursday, March 18, 2004

Whose idea was it to hire these people?

Peter Bronson

To cops in Cleveland, it looks like the inmates run the asylum in Cincinnati. Laid-off Cleveland cops who applied for jobs here have been rejected by a Civil Service Commission that includes a union leader, a lawyer whose license was suspended, and a former associate of the biggest cop-bashing lawyer in Cincinnati, Ken Lawson.

After hearing protests from the other biggest cop-basher in town, the Rev. Damon Lynch III, the Civil Service Commission asked for a "fair'' review of the hiring list - by a lawyer who has several lawsuits against the Cincinnati Police, Fanon Rucker.

"Iu doesn't make sense to have a guy who is suing police officers make decisions on hiring police officers," said former Cleveland cop Robert Taylor.

Taylor was offered a job by Cincinnati police, then rejected by the Civil Service Commission because he shot and killed a black teen in a car that was trying to run him over two years ago. Four separate reviews found the shooting justified.

Rucker said he offered only "red lights, yellow hights and green lights" thoughts on the applicants. "I've represented several people who sued the police. I'm a civil rights attorney,'' he said. "How about the fact that I'm also a former (city) prosecutor? If I was an 'I hate cops' type, I would understand, but I'm not.''

Lawyer Steve Lazarus, who represents Taylor, said his appeal has been unfairly rejected - and that it's unusual for the police chief's hiring decisions to be overruled by the Civil Service Commission.

Commissioners say they did it because the department chose the shortcut of lateral transfers to sign up Cleveland cops before other cities hired them.

The civil service commissioners are:

• Chairman Dan Radford, leader of the local AFL-CIO.

• Margaret Allen, who once worked for Lawson and has lawsuits against Cincinnati police, including a class-action lawsuit alleging racial profiling.

(Radford and Allen were appointed by Mayor Charlie Luken.)

• Robert Braddock, a former member of the Cincinnati Public Schools board, which appointed him. His law license was suspended in 1989 for unethical conduct.

Taylor's application was rejected because the Civil Service Commission did not want bad publicity or more protests by Lynch, Taylor was told. But Radford said Taylor was rejected for "a variety of reasons.''

"My opinion was fair,'' Allen said. "For the past three years, I haven't even worked for Ken, so it's a moot point.'' She was the only vote against hiring Cleveland cops.

Lynch, leader of the boycott of Cincinnati, protested the hiring of any Cleveland cops at a Civil Service Commission meeting on Feb. 6, and the commission then hired Rucker to review the files.

Sixty Cleveland cops applied. Cincinnati police, using polygraphs and psychological testing, whittled the field to 30. Five were rejected by the Civil Service Commission. And now eight more have dropped out, leaving 17 cops to hire.

Laid-off Cleveland cop Thomas Ross was among several who wrote to support Taylor: "They can put all the flowery labels on community policing, race relations, and cultural diversity that they wish, but in the end, when it's time to measure the size of one's heart and guts on any given night on our streets, the politicians, the ministers, and the appointed bureaucrats are nowhere to be found except within the safe confines of their protest marches and public offices - those, of course, protected by cops.''

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