Appeals Court Rules CCA Can Interview Police

Dec 31, 2019

An appeals court has overturned a permanent injunction that prohibited the Citizens Complaint Authority (CCA) from interviewing Cincinnati police during an ongoing criminal investigation. The CCA is responsible for investigating possible police misconduct.

In the decision, First District Court of Appeals Judge Pierre Bergeron writes, "The trial court granted a permanent, and sweeping, injunction, but it did so while skipping a critical step. ... It never determined that the state had prevailed on its claim. A party cannot secure a permanent injunction without winning the underlying lawsuit. Equally important, the state failed to adduce clear and convincing evidence of irreparable harm."

Why The Injunction Happened In The First Place

The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office sought the injunction claiming if police were made to answer questions by the CCA, it could divulge information about confidential informants and give a preview of the state's court case to the defense through a transcript of the interview.

Overreach?

After a First District Court of Appeals hearing on Oct. 8, Attorney Al Gerhardstein told WVXU this is overreach by the prosecutor's office. "The injunction by the trial judge undermines that whole effort and delays that timely investigation and that's what we're fighting over," he said at the time.

Iris Roley is the project manager for the Collaborative Agreement and the Collaborative Refresh. After the October hearing, she said, "This is being used to circumvent the process that was put in place 17 years ago. We have not had enough time to build or rebuild or scratch the surface on building trust between the black community and police. This smacks in the face of that."

WVXU is waiting for a reaction from the city and the county to the most recent ruling.

Plaintiff's attorney Gerhardstein is pleased with the decision, emphasizing, "If we can't promptly investigate officers' use of force then the CCA is not serving its purpose. And of course in this case the officers were fully justified in their use of force. It was really making sure the process was vindicated."

The case he refers to is from 2017, when a domestic violence suspect allegedly pointed a 9mm carbine rifle at a Cincinnati Police officer and was subsequently shot by police. 

Judge Robert Winkler dissented, writing, "The grant or denial of an injunction is solely within the trial court's discretion and, therefore, a reviewing court should not disturb the judgement of the trial court absent a showing of a clear abuse of discretion."