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Cranley Asks Council To Adopt U.S. Mayors' Police Reform Plan, Review Arbitration

Bill Rinehart

Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley is asking City Council to endorse the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Report on Police Reform and Racial Justice, adding the city already does much of what the report recommends.

The report, crafted by a working group of mayors and police chiefs from across the country, aims to provide cities "a blueprint for the implementation of real and lasting change," and "restore trust between officers and those they serve."

Cranley says he was asked to co-author the report because Cincinnati is "ahead of the curve" thanks to changes implemented as part of thecollaborative agreement.

You can read the full report here.

As part of adopting the report, Cranely specifically wants Council and city administrators to change the police disciplinary arbitration process. He wants to prioritize arbitration reform in the next negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police.

"It was the universal experience that chiefs (from across the country) would discipline officers for mistakes, errors, egregious violations - we're not talking about nine times out of 10 firing an officer, we're just talking about suspensions, report, 60-day suspension, something along those lines for awful behavior - and to have arbitrators reverse that," Cranley says.

Police chiefs involved in writing the report say that undermines the chain of command and the ability of police chiefs to discipline their own, adding it also affects moral and community trust.

"There are some changes that could occur (locally) where I think we could find common purpose, where clear cases of mistakes or egregious behavior - either one - can be appropriately disciplined and not be overturned because that undermines not only the chain of command but accountability and sense of accountability to the community as a whole."

The report does not call for defunding police, rather reassessing needs and redeploying resources. It also does not call for eliminating qualified immunity for officers. It does call for a comprehensive co-responder model of policing that includes having people trained in particular social and mental health areas be part of a police response to those calls for service.

It also suggests having clear policies on defining protests versus civil unrest, and appropriate responses.

Members of Council's Law and Public Safety Committee express support for the report and the request to review the arbitration process. It could come before the full council as soon as Wednesday.

Council Member Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney particularly likes the idea of having clear policies on the difference between protests and civil unrest. She is concerned about recommendations for peer reporting among officers and whether it's realistic to ask people to "snitch" on their friends and co-workers whom they are also relying on in dangerous situations.

Council Member Betsy Sundermann likes that the report doesn't call for ending qualified immunity and says she's "on board" with the idea of arbitration changes.

Council Members Greg Landsman and Jeff Pastor also supported the document with Landsman saying it shows the city is committed to reform while also keeping people and officers safe. Pastor likes "the more comprehensive" community safety response approach, "not defunding the police but working alongside.

"I'm excited about this report because it gives us a starting point. It gives us an opportunity to collaborate. I would hope that the folks out there who may not like everything in this report will see it as a necessary first step to at least sitting down at the table and saying we all want to live in healthy neighborhoods," says Pastor.

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.