Cincy's police oversight board was sued over a recording policy. That policy is now reversed
The Citizen Complaint Authority now allows anyone being interviewed during an investigation to make their own audio recording of the conversation. The previous policy is the subject of a lawsuit filed by FOP President Dan Hils last year.
Hils alleged a CCA investigator used a "selective recording technique" that omitted parts of the interview, and refused Hils' attempt to make his own recording. The city denies using "selective recording" during interviews.
The lawsuit is still open, but the parties reached a settlement agreement in a related case: an unfair labor practice charge filed with the Ohio State Employment Relations Board. The agreement has been in full effect since late last year.
In it, the CCA agrees to utilize "at least one recording device that will always be activated when the FOP member enters the room for their CCA interview" and to provide a copy of the recording to the FOP member.
"It has been our long-standing practice and policy to provide a copy of any recording that we make to the person who we are interviewing," CCA Director Gabe Davis told a council committee earlier this week.
Davis says the settlement codifies a few other policies already in place, such as announcing each time the recording is paused, and not asking any questions during a break in recording.
Davis told WVXU in a statement the current practice is to "generally permit" interviewees to make their own recording.
"We expect every person being interviewed and all representatives of those persons to be respectful in the interview room, but we do not plan to stop private recording as long as it is not disruptive, and we know when it is occurring," Davis said. "That has not always been our approach, but now that we are videotaping interviews instead of just audio recording, our investigations are now more protected than ever, because CCA will have an authoritative videotaped record of what occurred during the interview."
In an early January filing related to the city's motion to dismiss the lawsuit, lawyers for the city argue there is no First Amendment right to individually record CCA interviews.
Last week, council unanimously approved the purchase of video equipment and software for the CCA to begin making video recordings of all interviews, rather than just audio recordings.
Council Member Scotty Johnson, a former Cincinnati police officer, said the move is long overdue.
"I didn't have the pleasure of having video when I was an investigator, but that helps with the integrity of the investigation," Johnson said. "And it helps with the trust that we're praying we continuously have between our citizens and the Cincinnati Police Department."
The $21,800 cost was already part of the CCA budget.