By Dan Yount
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced measures to address racial and implicit bias at a news conference Jan. 4 at City Hall.
The event provided an opportunity for Cranley to make his first public remarks about two Cincinnati police officers, who are under investigation for using a racial slur on the job.
Cranley called racism “the original sin in American history, and I will not stand for it in Cincinnati city government. We need to set a clear moral tone in city government, and using the N-word is wrong and racist.’’
The city has earned accolades for changing the culture of policing under The Collaborative Agreement, Cranley said, adding this “constitutional policing is better policing. Implicit bias affects all of us. It also affects our chances of surviving when police respond to an incident.
“Let me be clear, explicit bias is using the N-word, and it’s totally unacceptable,” Cranley said. “And obviously, in light of recent events, we need a refresher on that.”
City officials recently revised Administrative Regulation 25, which covers the city’s nondiscrimination policy, so it would be more clear and so it would include “strong but fair” discipline requirements, City Manager Patrick Duhaney said.
Under the regulation, city employees who use a racial slur would be suspended without pay for 40 hours, and they will have to go through a retraining program. If an employee violates the policy a second time, they will face “punishment which may possibly be termination,” Duhaney said.
Duhaney changed the policy on racial and implicit bias in October to make it as restrictive as possible, also requiring all city employees to take implicit and explicit bias training. The policy applies to all departments.
Duhaney said, “Words matter; actions matter. City employees represent the city of Cincinnati, and it is important they exhibit a culture of respect for all. Discipline should be strong, but fair.’’
Cranley also addressed questions about how the two officers were given different punishments. Officer Dennis Barnette, who is White, was stripped of his police powers, gun and badge and placed on desk duty just days after his body camera caught him saying the “N” word while arresting a woman at the Brownstone Nightclub on Dec. 23. An internal investigation into the matter remains ongoing. But earlier this year, Officer Donte Hill, who is Black, was just given a reprimand after using the word while responding to a domestic dispute on Sept 26. Both incidents were captured on the officers’ body cameras, police reported.
Police Chief Eliot Isaac has suspended Hill’s powers, too, and sent a memo explaining the situation to the city manager
Chief Eliot Isaac apologized that the officers used the word.
“I personally know the sting of that word, and it just simply won’t be tolerated,” Isaac said. “It’s unprofessional, and it has no place in a professional police department or any part of city government.”
Cranley presented the legislation to Cincinnati City Council on Jan. 9.
The Sentinel Police Association, which represents African American officers in the Cincinnati Police Department, are calling for cultural competency and bias training for all officers. Only police recruits receive that training.
In a tweet on Jan. 2, Councilman Greg Landsman suggested council would “push for change in the weeks ahead,” mentioning that workers in “any other job” would resign or be fired after using such a slur.
On Jan. 3, Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Cincinnati, posted on the Support The Blue In Cincy Facebook page: “The officer, who has yet to have his due process in an official hearing, is a father of five and a ten-year veteran of the agency. He has been working nights in some of the most dangerous areas of the city. Officer Hill once witnessed a fellow officer stabbed. Imagine Officer Hill’s trauma after such an event.
“Council members push for firing of (a) Marine Corps veteran who had been deployed during the Iraq war and survived a near miss by a scud missile. There is much more that you should know about Officer Barrnett.’’
Hils had previously released a statement on the slurs that read, in part: “Although we hear it often in the street, there is no place for it in a professional agency.”—
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman has called a special session of the law and public safety committee for Jan. 11 to discuss the incidents.
This article originally appeared in The Cincinnati Herald.