Mayor, Council member at odds over timetable for moving District 5 police headquarters

Cranley says Christmas, Winburn says now

CINCINNATI - Mayor John Cranley balked at demands by the FOP and City Council member Charlie Winburn to immediately shut down District 5 police headquarters Tuesday.

Winburn demanded that the mayor and city manager close the Ludlow Avenue operation within 72 hours.

Cranley responded that it would take roughly 62 days.

With Election Day two weeks away, Winburn stepped up the pressure by vowing to take out radio ads and threatening everything from legal action to an overnight at City Hall until it closes.

To wait would be to “further jeopardize the lives of these police officers,” Winburn said.

 “I plan to start tomorrow my radio ads against Mayor John Cranley, against the city manager and against the city council until they close this place down,” Winburn told WCPO.

Cranley, facing a tough election challenge from council member Yvette Simpson, says he's pushing for a Christmas exit. That’s in line with Chief Eliot Isaac’s timetable, which called for everyone to be out by the end of the year.

“I appreciate (Winburn’s) concern that I share for these officers, which is why we're getting the folks who work there day-to-day out and we've promised to get everybody out by Christmas,” Cranley told WCPO.

Winburn joined the FOP and its president, Sgt. Dan Hils, who called Monday for an immediate withdrawal from the Ludlow Avenue building amid claims by Hils and other officers that it’s a cancer-causing death trap.

The FOP says asbestos, mold and what appears to be a cancer cluster make it dangerous.

At a Sept. 26 news conference, Hils reported six cancer-related deaths among District 5 employees under the age of 60 during 2015 and 2016.

A city environmental health study of the Ludlow Avenue headquarters didn't show any contamination, according to City Manager Harry Black. But Black said the building was too small and agreed to move the District 5 operation.

Under Isaac’s plan, announced in September, 35 administrative personnel have already moved  to the Bengals’ old practice facility at Spinney Field in Lower Price Hill, since converted to a police training site.

District 5 patrol officers spend much of their shifts on the road but come to Ludlow Avenue for roll call and to store their belongings.

The FOP is also demanding free cancer screenings for officers who work or worked at District 5. A city memo says most cancer screenings are covered by city insurance, and Cranley told WCPO he'd make sure anything that's not covered will be.

 Isaac promised Sept. 29 to temporarily move all employees working administrative assignments to Spinney Field by Oct. 31. Once training classes resume, those employees would be moved to a leased building on Colerain Avenue in Camp Washington, Isaac said.

Isacc's plan called for the remaining 100-odd patrol officers to remain at Ludlow Avenue until Dec. 31.

In the long term, the department still plans to move District 5 headquarters to the former Permit Center at 3300 Central Parkway, but the necessary renovations to make a new home for the district will not be completed until 2019 at the earliest. 

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