Saturday, May 1, 2004

Feds, mayor at odds over force reports

The Associated Press

The Justice Department's insistence that Cincinnati police further document use of force by officers would unnecessarily burden the police and divert them from fighting crime, Mayor Charlie Luken said in a letter to the government.

The letter calls on Attorney General John Ashcroft to help resolve the issue.

A police reform agreement in 2002 resulted from a Justice Department investigation Luken requested after a white police officer fatally shot a fleeing, unarmed black man in 2001, prompting three nights of rioting.

The disagreement involves "hard hands" incidents in which police use physical pressure to force a a suspect to comply with a police order.

He said the Justice Department wants a police supervisor to investigate these incidents and tape-record the statements of suspects, officers and witnesses.

"If the police are burdened by reporting processes that add no value and take officers and supervisors off of the streets, the police contribution to the fight against violent crime is severely hampered," Luken wrote to Ashcroft last week, in a letter City Hall released on Friday.

Cincinnati requires such a supervisor's investigation in cases in which an officer actually strikes a suspect, Luken wrote.

But the city proposes that for the lesser "hard hands" incidents, it would suffice to have a police supervisor visit the scene, take photographs and submit a report.

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