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New Groups Want To Move Cincinnati's Collaborative Agreement Forward

Bill Rinehart
Members of the community are weighing in on changes they'd like to see the police department make to improve the Collborative Agreement.

It's been 18 years since Cincinnati's Collaborative Agreement was signed and two years since a refresh. With the nation's racial climate much different, new groups want a say in the way policing is done in Cincinnati, and parties to the original lawsuit say these new groups should be heard.

Leaders of the Free World, an advocacy organization, has about 150 recommendations from community members about how policing can improve. They include eliminating police officers from schools because some say it contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline. Other proposals include mandatory social work training for police and requiring officers to live in the community they patrol.

"All of these problem-solving projects and outgrowths happened in the first wave," says Iris Roley with the Cincinnati Black United Front (CBUF). "It is now time to be innovative. It is not the time to look away." She took part in Cincinnati City Council's Law and Public Safety meeting Tuesday and called the effort a "continuous improvement project."

The attorney who represented the CBUF in its lawsuit against the city in 2001 is Al Gerhardstein. He also spoke during the council committee meeting. "Why do we need all this? Because when great ideas and bad ideas and interesting ideas come up from the community - as you've got in the 150 recommendations that the Leaders of the Free World have brought forward - they need to be heard."

CBUF and others praised recent transparency by police. Chief Eliot Isaac admits there's still work to be done. FOP President Dan Hils says police can always get better at communications but wants to make sure people know it's the criminal activity that's causing problems, not police. "We are the problem solvers," he says.

What's Next?

Council Member Christopher Smitherman says this is the first of many conversations on the Collaborative.

The city manager's office, through Jason Cooper, is working toward making changes. Here are just a few of them:

  • Putting closed cases up on the open data portal
  • Including pedestrian stops on the open data portal
  • Developing a Collaborative Agreement Performance Data Deck and publishing it quarterly
  • Introducing new Tasers and body cameras
  • Making Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA) complaint forms available in Spanish

Whatever changes are ultimately made, Law and Public Safety Chair Smitherman says we will only know if they work when there is a critical incident that is defused by police.
"We're not tested here in the room when we're all singing Kumbaya," he says. "It's when we have that citizen who's in the park and he has a knife and is charging an officer."

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.