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CPD Shootings Report Recommends New Mental Health Policy

fifth third shooting
John Minchillo
Civilians are escorted from the Fifth Third Center as emergency personnel and police work the scene of shooting near Fountain Square, Thursday, Sept. 6, 2018, in downtown Cincinnati.

The Citizen Complaint Authority is recommending changes to Cincinnati Police policies related to a suspect's mental health. A new report from the independent oversight board shows the majority of people subject to a recent officer shooting were likely experiencing a mental health crisis.

The CCA report covers all eight officer-involved shootings in 2018 and 2019. It recommends a new CPD policy requiring officers to check for a history of mental illness before executing a warrant.

Executive Director Gabe Davis says that kind of check should have been done before officers went to arrest 20-year-old James Clay in 2018. Two officers shot and killed Clay after he pulled out a replica handgun.

"It might have taken some additional questioning, some additional inquires, but we think that ought to have been done," Davis said. "And if such a system does not exist, we think one ought to be created to facilitate better information sharing about these risks before warrants are served."

The CCA investigation determined the officers acted within CPD policy and procedures, exonerating them of wrongdoing. One officer used a Taser before his firearm. Two officers fired a total of 16 shots, hitting Clay 15 times and injuring one of the officers.

The weapon Clay pointed at officers was later determined to be an inoperable pellet gun — a full-sized metal replica of a semi-automatic pistol.

FOP President Dan Hils says he's grateful for the exonerations but frustrated by the implication that officers didn't fully do their jobs.

"To suggest that we somehow should have found out all about Mr. Clay's mental health is kind of unreasonable when our duty is to apprehend somebody that's a dangerous, violent felon before they victimize someone else," Hils said.

Clay had arrest warrants related to a robbery in which a Boost Mobile employee was violently assaulted.  

Janice Clay says her son's history of mental illness should have been apparent, in part because the warrant was executed at Talbert House where he was living.

"I took my son to District 4 [and] had a sit-down with the police about his mental health," Clay said. "I did everything possible as a parent to have contact with the police, and for the police to say they had no knowledge or anything is just absolutely ridiculous."

Davis says the recommendation is just the beginning of a conversation between police, the CCA and the public about this issue.

Trends In Officer-Involved Shootings

The CCA report includes a detailed investigation of each firearm discharge in 2018 and 2019. The investigations exonerated all officers of any wrongdoing.

"Six out of eight citizens — 75% — that were subject to a firearms discharge were armed with either a knife or a firearm at the time of the shooting," Davis said.  "One of those eight individuals was carrying out a mass shooting incident as an active shooter."

Officers shot and killed 29-year-old Omar Enrique Santa-Perez in September 2018 when he opened fire inside a bank building just off Fountain Square. Perez killed three people and injured two others before police shot and killed him. 

The CCA report commends four officers for their "bravery and courage" in stopping the active shooter, saying their actions saved numerous lives. 

In 2018 and 2019 combined, two people were killed in police shootings, and four suffered non-fatal injuries, including one officer hit by another. Two of the injuries were people accidentally hit by gunfire when officers fired at dogs. 

Five of the eight people fired at by police were African American, one was Hispanic and two were Caucasian.

The report includes four other recommendations related to officer-involved shootings:

  • That CPD clarify the circumstances under which a person who is suffering from a mental health crisis may be charged criminally when the charges are related to the crisis.
  • That CPD require officers, where feasible, to provide first aid following uses of force that result in a citizen's injury. (Current policy says officers may administer CPR or basic first aid, if appropriate.)
  • That CPD convene the Firearms Discharge Board or Critical Incident Review Board for all firearm discharges at the conclusion of any criminal investigation into shootings.
  • That CPD require the Critical Incident Review Board and Firearms Discharge Board to determine whether the use of additional de-escalation techniques was possible, whether the officers involved properly considered and followed CPD's policies, training and protocols for addressing persons with mental illness.

Davis says shootings have slightly declined over the past six years. The report doesn't include three firearm discharges in 2020 because those CCA investigations are ongoing.
See the full CCA report, including recommendations, below:

CCA Special Report: Discharge of Firearm Incidents 2018-2019 by WVXU News on Scribd

Local Government Reporter with a particular focus on Cincinnati; experienced journalist in public radio and television throughout the Midwest. Enthusiastic about: civic engagement, public libraries, and urban planning.