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How's The Refresh Of The City's Collaborative Agreement Going? Opinions Differ

riot anniversary
Tom Uhlman
Protesters demonstrate outside the District One police station in Cincinnati, Sunday, April 7, 2002, during a rally to mark the one-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer.

So, is the nearly two-year-old effort to refresh Cincinnati's 2002 collaborative agreement still working?  That depends on who you ask.
Iris Roley with the Cincinnati Black United Front (CBUF) addressed City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee Monday morning.

"We simply need a revisit of the revisit," Roley said. "We are off track. But this is doable. We can take the master plan that we sold to the community, police and ourselves and continue to climb to fulfilling all of the goals of the CA and the recommendations of the refresh."

At least one person expressed concern about the makeup of the City Manager's Advisory Group (MAG), which was set up to monitor the collaborative agreement when federal court monitoring ended in 2008.  Right now, it has 16 members, which is lower than in the past.

Samuel Burbanks compared the current makeup of the MAG to a corporate board.

"You know the University of Cincinnati, this organization, that organization, leaders of various organizations versus people who come directly from the communities that are affected by policing," Burbanks said.

City Collaborative Agreement Sustainability Manager Jason Cooper acknowledged the MAG was "reconstructed" after he took his position.

"That reconstruction is part of assessments from the refresh, it's part of feedback from other MAG members, both current and present," Cooper said. "Around some of the operational difficulties of the MAG, many people expressed feeling stuck, not seeing outcomes happening."

Cooper said the MAG now represents a variety of sectors including philanthropy, academia and representatives from different parts of the city.

Mayor John Cranley announced an effort to "refresh" the collaborative in 2017.  City leaders acknowledge that while many reforms remain in place from the agreement, others have lapsed or been given less priority because of budget constraints and leadership changes in the city's police department.

The CBUF was instrumental in negotiating the collaborative when it was negotiated in 2002 to settle several pending lawsuits against the city's police department alleging discrimination, racial profiling and excessive use of force.

Other parties included the city, the U.S Justice Department and the Fraternal Order of Police.

It followed the civil unrest in 2001 after a white city police officer shot an unarmed black man in Over-the-Rhine.  

The police department, under the supervision of a monitor appointed by a federal court judge, changed its "use of force" policies.  It also began to document encounters with residents; set up an independent civilian review process; and launched community problem-oriented policing.

That refresh had three focus areas:

  • Bias-free policing and officer accountability — ensuring fair, equitable, courteous treatment of all; early warning system to identify at-risk officers.
  • Mutual accountability of all parties — engagement of city departments, community, other jurisdictions; oversight process by the city manager's advisory group.
  • Community problem-oriented policing strategy — problem solving adopted by the city and parties as the principle strategy to address crime and disorder problems.

The city hired the former federal court monitor Saul Green to assist with the review and refresh of the collaborative.
This is not necessarily the first bump in road for the collaborative refresh.

In January 2018, Green and his team issued a strongly worded report that suggested the city's police department had abandoned community problem-oriented policing (CPOP).  That was a major piece of the 2002 collaborative.

The monitor was responding to a report from the city on CPOP.

"First, it suggests that the Cincinnati Police Department is applying a policing strategy other than Community Problem-Oriented Policing," Green wrote. "And second, it indicates that the Cincinnati Police Department has little leadership interest in preventing crime using evidence-based practices. Taken literally, it states that the City of Cincinnati has unilaterally withdrawn from the collaborative agreement."

The police department responded with additional information detailing problem-solving projects in each of the police districts. But Green and his team were still critical of these efforts being focused "on a small area with a district."  The report found little focus on "district level and city-level strategic problem-polving being undertaken."

Police Chief Eliot Isaac plans to re-institute "a monthly cross-sector CPOP review panel." A document said it will review presentations on all new CPOP projects and provide feedback and technical assistance moving forward.

Jay Hanselman brings more than 10 years experience as a news anchor and reporter to 91.7 WVXU. He came to WVXU from WNKU, where he hosted the local broadcast of All Things Considered. Hanselman has been recognized for his reporting by the Kentucky AP Broadcasters Association, the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and the Ohio AP Broadcasters.