Enquirer News Update   -   Updated 6:40 p.m.

Police union wants out of reform agreement



By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police this morning announced it wants to pull out of the city's collaborative agreement on police reform following a membership vote on the issue.

Police union Vice President Keith Fangman said at a 10 a.m. press conference that more than 200 of the union's 1,050-officer membership voted unanimously Monday night to drop out of the collaborative, an agreement over police practices that settled a federal racial profiling lawsuit filed against the city alleging decades of discrimination against blacks.

The move would have to be approved by U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott, who is overseeing the settlement. But Fangman and FOP President Roger Webster were highly critical of Dlott, saying statements and decisions she has made in recent weeks show she is biased against Cincinnati police officers.

They cited the opinion she wrote in allowing attorney Ken Lawson to continue working on the case after city officials complained that he used information he gets in collaborative discussions in other lawsuits against police officers. She wrote that civil-rights violations "continue to occur" and that "inevitably they will continue in the future."

Officers took offense.

"I don't care if she is a federal judge," Fangman said. "She needs to be held accountable."

Dlott could not be reached for comment this morning.

The Cincinnati Black United Front activist group announced last month that it was pulling out of the agreement to focus on expanding its 21-month-old boycott of downtown Cincinnati. Dlott approved that move.

Now, the police union said it wants to pull out and focus on something more important - working with citizens to fight crime, which has exploded in the city since the 2001 riots.

The Black United Front was a class representative for the 140,000-plus plaintiffs included in the class-action racial profiling lawsuit that was part of the agreement, a class that Lawson still represents.

Lawson said an issue of contention for the past six months with the FOP has been how police should be able to file complaints against citizens. Lawson said FOP representatives wanted to be able to take down names, addresses and other identifiers when complaining about residents who are disrespectful to police when they are on the streets.

This information would be compiled into a file so police could track individuals who are abusive to officers, Lawson said.

Union leaders mentioned none of those issues today, focusing instead on Dlott's ability to be fair.

Lawson said he doesn't think the police union legally can be removed. "I would like to see them stay involved, but the bottom line is that it is not going to affect the collaborative," Lawson said.

Fangman disagreed, saying he didn't see how the collaborative would effectively continue if the union gets out.

"Who's going to be there?" he said. "Judge Dlott and Ken Lawson?"

E-mail jprendergast@enquirer.com