The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio will use a million dollar grant to monitor police reforms and investigate claims of police misconduct outside of Cincinnati's city limits. The money will establish the Center for Social Justice at the Urban League, with work expected to launch in mid- to late July.
The grant comes from J. Phillip and Gail Holloman, and is the largest private gift to the Urban League chapter in its 72-year history. J. Phillip Holloman is the board chair and says social justice has been lacking in and around Cincinnati, and the grant will allow police monitoring to spread outside Cincinnati.
"African Americans live in, work in, drive through these municipalities on a regular basis," he says. "The center will endeavor to assess and determine if African Americans are disproportionately profiled, stopped and detained by police in these cities. Biased policing can escalate from racial profiling to the use of deadly force."
Holloman says the center aims to eliminate racially biased policing from the culture of these police departments.
"We want to work towards preventative measures and work toward not having complaints exist," he says. "That's why we talk about working with these municipalities on their reforms, making sure that from our perspective they're working on the right reforms and that the right action is being taken."
That includes communities' relationships with police unions and their contracts. Holloman says he doesn't think reforms will occur without cooperation with unions. "There's this generational continuum of hiring practices and culture that still exists today that affects the African American community."
Urban League President and CEO Eddie Koen says working with departments and unions is the ideal. "One of the things people talk about is the incredible work that was done around the (Cincinnati) Collaborative Agreement. The accelerant to that was a lawsuit," he says. "Legal action is very necessary in many cases to accelerate the deep social change that we need."
The center will be working with a law firm when necessary. Michael Wright of the Cochran Firm of Ohio says his office will give the center "teeth."
"If there's lawsuits that need to be filed, if there's injunctions, if there's things that we need to do to make sure that these policies and procedures that are adversely affecting our community that we can address those things," Wright says.
Koen says a "deeper and sustained focus" on social justice is needed right now, and the pledge from the Hollomans will help the Urban League focus on the work without taking away resources from other projects.