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Cincinnati's police oversight board on track to clear backlog of complaint cases

Cincinnati Police car
Becca Costello
/
WVXU

The Cincinnati Citizen Complaint Authority is on track to clear a backlog of cases by the end of next year.

The city’s independent police oversight board investigates complaints against officers of the Cincinnati Police Department. Years of underfunding caused a backlog of over a hundred cases more than a year old.

“Our 2021 closure rate illustrates the value and the importance of having the investigators that we have now,” said CCA Executive Director Gabe Davis. “In 2021, we went from two to three investigators to four to five investigators, and just adding those few paid off tremendously for us. In that calendar year, we closed 70% more cases.”

The CCA now has eight full-time investigators; four of those were hired in the last six months. The goal is to complete each investigation within 90 days. There are now 65 cases older than a year, down from nearly 80-year-old cases two months ago.

“What we want to do is be able to show the community that if you bring us a case today in 2022, you don’t have to wait two years, a year, for your case to close,” Davis said.

Davis says the newest investigators are focused on new complaints, while the more experienced investigators continue working through the backlog. The number of new complaints is up about 10% compared to this time last year.

The CCA budget for fiscal year 2023 is about $1.3 million, a slight increase from last year and more than double the budget in FY 2017.

The biggest increase was last year with an additional $390,000 to hire new investigators, primarily to deal with the case backlog. At the time, the administration recommended evaluating whether the increase was needed long-term, implying the budget could be reduced in future years. Two then-council members opposed some of the budget increase.

The last annual report says the CCA determined about 75% of complaints in 2020 were unfounded or the officer was exonerated. The 2021 annual report is expected in the next couple of weeks.

The CCA’s mission also includes examining patterns to identify opportunities for preventing complaints; that could include identifying “at-risk officers, citizens, and circumstances.”

Davis says he thinks the CCA needs a dedicated data analyst to assist with that pattern analysis.

The next CCA board meeting is Monday, July 11, at 5 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.