Cincinnati City Council held its meeting at City Hall Wednesday as a protest took place outside the building on Plum Street.
Those demonstrating were honoring George Floyd, who died in police custody a week ago in Minneapolis. They are asking for reform and change for policing in minority communities.
Police Chief Eliot Isaac spoke to council about the department's response to the marches, and some of the violence that's been directed toward officers. One officer is OK after getting shot in his helmet Saturday evening, and others have had rocks and bottle thrown at them. Isaac said he's ducked a few times for flying objects.
Council members took turns speaking. Many offered praise for the police department, and some offered words of support for the protestors and their causes.
Council Member Wendell Young said he is struck by the peaceful protestors' behavior, and by the makeup of the crowd.
"This is the first time in my life I've ever seen significant numbers of white people participate in something like this," Young said. "And it really gives me hope for the future."
Young said the problems for African Americans go back to what he calls "America's original sin."
"America has never figured out how to deal with the racial issues that we have," Young said. "And we as African Americans have never found a way to demonstrate that we deserve full citizenship, even with amendments to the Constitution of the United States."
Young said police are being criticized as "the problem" for what happened to George Floyd. But he said it goes beyond that to the criminal justice system and other issues.
Council Member David Mann agreed it's more than just police reform - it's deeper than that. He mentioned the infant morality rate, life expectancy, unemployment rates, and health issues, among others.
"We need to have a commitment to reaching to every single human being who lives in this city," Mann said. "And I'm confident that one way or another we will."
Five council members have signed a motion listing policies they support, or will consider making, from the changes and reforms protestors are asking for.
Those who had signed as of Wednesday afternoon include P.G. Sittenfeld, Chris Seelbach, Wendell Young, Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney and Greg Landsman.
Those items include (taken directly from the proposed motion):
- Strengthening, and funding the next phase of our city’s Collaborative Agreement
- Immediately reconvening the Manager’s Advisory Group, the body responsible for providing guidance on policing - to allow for increased community involvement and civilian oversight
- Fully funding the Citizen Complaint Authority
- Passing an ordinance punishing 'knowingly or recklessly' reporting someone to the police on the sole basis of their race, gender or other bias
- Expansion of our Bail Reform policy: Cincinnati City Council has instituted its first-ever bail reform legislation, and we believe we should now expand it, ending the system of wealth-based detention. Furthermore, public pressure must be put on Hamilton County, which contains the Prosecutor’s Office, to do the same as that is where the majority of defendants are processed
- Advocacy on next steps for divestment from the private prison industry. Cincinnati City Council has sponsored a divestment policy from private prisons. However, the Cincinnati Retirement System Board has not yet carried out our directive, and they must be pressured to do so
- Given current Constitutional prohibitions against residency requirements for police officers, finding creative ways to facilitate more officers living in the community that they police. The policy of awarding additional points to police applicants who come through our city’s Public School Safety Academy is a good example of this
- Similarly, we need to find legally allowable mechanisms to help the composition of our police department better reflect the demographics of our city (currently, Cincinnati is ~44% black, with a police department that is ~29% black)
- Legislation making it illegal for the police department to hire officers who were previously fired or who resigned while being investigated for serious misconduct and/or excessive force
- Legislation making it subject to a vote of the City Council for the police department to receive military weapons or equipment
The motion could be referred to a council committee for consideration next week, or the full council could vote on it next Wednesday.