Saturday, November 6, 2004

Search report clears officer

Internal police finding differs from citizen panel's

By Janice Morse
Enquirer staff writer

Internal investigators have cleared a Cincinnati police officer of wrongdoing in a nationally televised case of an alleged illegal search and racial profiling.

But controversy over the 2002 incident is still simmering because an independent review panel found fault with the officer's actions.

In a decision released Friday, the police department's internal investigations section concluded that a videotape shows that Robert Short of Forest Park consented to Officer Ron Dammert's request to search him at Vine and 13th streets in November 2002.

"I'm really happy with the internal finding because I didn't do anything wrong," Dammert said Friday.

Short alleged he was stopped and searched because he is black.

But in the internal report, Dammert told investigators he stopped Short because he was behaving suspiciously by "changing direction and walking away each time Officer Dammert approached."

Dammert questioned the timing of Short's complaint, noting that Short filed his allegations in April 2004, following Dateline NBC's documentary on racial profiling - 18 months after the incident.

Short said he felt intimidated into being searched and when he attempted to make a complaint shortly after the incident, the internal report says.

But after Short did file his allegations this year, he canceled an interview with internal investigators and did not respond to attempts to reschedule it, the report says.

Short's mother, Kathy Shives, who helped her son file the complaint, said the Citizen Complaint Authority, an independent police review agency, issued findings that contrast with the internal investigation.

But Shives declined further comment and said Short was unavailable.

On Friday, a receptionist at the Citizen Complaint Authority's office said she did not have access to the Dammert report and could not release it to the Enquirer. But Keith Fangman, vice president of the Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police, said Dammert showed him a copy of the authority's report after it was issued several weeks ago.

Fangman said that report and other cases show the authority routinely ignores facts and makes "decisions that fly in the face of state and federal law."

Officers' concerns

"We have complained over the past few months a number of times to the mayor and the city manager about other cases," he said. "This has gone on far too long."

Fangman said he will ask to meet with City Manager Valerie Lemmie and Mayor Charlie Luken to further air officers' concerns about the authority and its director, Wendell "Pete" France - and to urge an investigation of France's conduct.

France and Luken did not return telephone calls Friday.

Lemmie declined to comment Friday on the difference in the reports. Lemmie makes the final decision on whether police officers should be disciplined after reviewing reports from the Citizen Complaint Authority and police internal investigations.

In another publicized case of alleged police misconduct, Lemmie was also faced with contrasting findings from internal investigators and the Citizen Complaint Authority.

Internal investigators concluded that officers did nothing wrong in the death of Nathaniel Jones, a 41-year-old morbidly obese man who was on drugs when he struggled with police in the North Avondale White Castle parking lot last year.

The authority recommended that Lemmie "severely discipline" three of the six involved officers. This week, Lemmie said officers in the Jones case deserved no discipline.

She said they followed departmental procedures that were in effect at the time of Jones' death, and noted that some procedures have been changed after his death.

Despite Fangman's contention that the two cases - and others - cry out for an examination of the Citizen Complaint Authority, Lemmie said Friday she saw no need for such an investigation.

"I think each body has their respective role to play," she said.


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