Monday, September 13, 2004

Process slow, but police monitor stays confident

By Dan Horn
Enquirer staff writer

More than three years after Cincinnati's riots, the police department is moving forward with reforms intended to improve its relationship with the community.

But the man overseeing those reforms says the pace of change has been slower than he'd like.

Saul Green, a former U.S. Attorney in Detroit, is the court-appointed monitor who oversees the city's agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice as well as a "collaborative agreement" between city officials, police and community activists.

The agreement with the Justice Department is meant to change the way police do their jobs, from their use of physical force to the way they fill out paperwork.

The collaborative agreement - the first of its kind in the country - is intended to improve communication and reduce tension between police officers and African-Americans.

Green has noted in his quarterly reports that Cincinnati continues to fall short of its goal in several areas, such as encouraging police and residents to work more closely and making community-oriented policing a bigger part of police training.

The Enquirer recently asked Green to talk about his nearly two years of work in Cincinnati and to reflect on the progress, or lack of progress, that he's seen so far.

Question: How much progress has been made, not just on the required police reforms but on the broader goal of improving police-community relations?

Answer: "The progress that has been made tells me that the police reform is going to be accomplished. The biggest problem I have is that this city said it was going to accomplish more than that. It was going to try to change the relationships. I have a concern that (city officials, police and community leaders) are not talking the way they ought to, and they are not cooperating the way the collaborative agreement says they ought to."

Q: Part of your job is to encourage the parties to work together. How do you do that?

A: "There is a very intense and long history between the parties. They have not talked easily over the years. What we try to do is keep everybody at the table, keep them talking. When we hit a difficult issue, it shifts from monitoring to mediation."

Q: How often do you meet?

A: "We call it the all-parties meeting. It's the third Thursday of every month. We meet with all the parties around the table and discuss where we are and what is going on ... It's hard to guess who's going to be reasonable on any particular issue."

Q: Where have you seen the most and least progress?

A: "There has been progress, and I would characterize it as pretty steady progress, on implementation of the memorandum of understanding (with the Department of Justice). On the collaborative agreement, it has not kept the same pace. There is more work that needs to be done. The collaborative agreement has lagged behind."

Q: Why is the collaborative agreement more difficult?

A: "Trying to measure things like trust, that's a little amorphous. But there are steps that are very concrete that the parties should be taking. Our perspective is that all of the parties need to step up and contribute more."

Green says those steps include the creation of a community policing Web site, monthly reports from police commanders on problem-solving activities in the community, and new police job descriptions that emphasize improving police-community relations.

Q: Agreements like the ones in Cincinnati are pretty rare and have only been around for about 10 years. How do you prepare for this job?

A: "There are a dozen active monitoring efforts around the country. It's not something with a long history. This whole process of investigating and monitoring is relatively new. So I used the background from my Detroit experience and I looked at how other monitors do it. Some of it was experience; some of it we stole from other people. What's unique about Cincinnati is there are two agreements - the collaborative and the agreement with the Justice Department - so we had to consider how to monitor from two perspectives."

Q: Is Cincinnati the challenge you expected?

A: "It's at times been very difficult but very rewarding. It's difficult because people feel very, very intensely about the issues Cincinnati is confronting. There is a long history and a lot of anger there. You find yourself, at times, dealing with very intense, emotional situations. That can be hard. But it's rewarding when you are able to keep the process going."



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