Police chief commits to moving District 5 staff from Ludlow Ave headquarters following FOP outrage

Demands come after multiple cancer deaths

CINCINNATI -- Thirty-four employees most "at risk" at the police's District Five headquarters will be moved within 30 days, Chief Eliot Isaac promised at a city council committee meeting Wednesday morning.

The remainder of the 122 employees stationed there will be out by Dec. 31 and relocated into a new facility by mid-2019, he said. 

This announcement came one day after FOP President Dan Hils publicly complained of the unusual number of police officers who have died from cancer and decried the cramped working conditions at the Ludlow Avenue building. Hils insisted the city's administration move officers out by Christmas at Tuesday's news conference.

Winburn went one step further at Wednesday's budget and finance committee meeting by demanding the city have a comprehensive plan to move officers within 30 days, or Oct. 27.

"I've always said, 'Get them out of here,' but I've never set a date before," Hils said. "I'm going as high on the food chain as I can go without calling the governor or the White House. I'm asking for John Cranley's involvement, which I've never done before."

Watch Winburn speaking at Wednesday's council meeting below.

Hils repeated a few times during Tuesday's news conference that he's no scientist, but he and many others find it strange that six employees under the age of 60 died in 2015 and 2016 from cancer.

James Kroger was a specialist at District Five for the majority of his career who died of bladder cancer in 2011 at age 70. His son Jon-Paul Kroger said his dad did make some lifestyle choice that could have played a role in his death, but now he wonders if there is a connection.

"For the most part, he was a collator and a specialist at District Five, so he was mostly behind the desk in the later part of his career,” Kroger said. "I wouldn't (want my father working there). Not at all." 

Hils blames all the cancer-related deaths on the Ludlow Avenue building itself, which Cincinnati Police moved into in 1957 as a temporary fix. Sixty "temporary" years later, Hils calls it a "dump."

"This is too easy. This is a no-brainer," he said. "It's time to move these folks before they hear about somebody else they work with (getting cancer) and wonder whether it's due to this building or not."

 

RELATED: FOP president: 'My patience is done' with city over troubled District 5 headquarters

Tests for mold, radon and asbestos found the air quality in the building "typical for commercial buildings," according to a memo from City Manager Harry Black. Still, Black recommended closing the building, saying it had become too small for personnel.

On Tuesday, Winburn called it a disgrace that nothing had been done after city officials promised to move officers nearly a year ago.

Winburn passionately referenced Cranley and his city council colleagues Yvette Simpson and PG Sittenfeld by name at the news conference, demanding they do whatever they can to shut down the headquarters within 30 days' time.

"I believe the city administration is stonewalling this situation. I believe some of the people in the administration have problems with my (FOP) president. And I believe this is personal (against Hils)," Winburn said. "I'm not running for anything, but I do think the individuals who are should help resolve this."

Watch Tuesday's full news conference in the video player above.

 

Winburn issued a news release to similar effect later Tuesday evening.

"I will no longer ask nicely," he wrote. "We must close District Five immediately. And that’s what I demand.”

Winburn called for Cranley to declare a state of emergency surrounding officers' working conditions and commit to the building's immediate closure as he introduced a motion to accomplish those goals at Wednesday morning's meeting.

Read Winburn's motion below:

Additional reporting contributed by Tom McKee, Ashley Zilka and Kristen Swilley.

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