Hamilton County prosecutor subpoenas Cincinnati's independent investigation into Kyle Plush's death

CINCINNATI -- The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has subpoenaed the city of Cincinnati for its outside review into Kyle Plush's death, a move that could keep the process and report secret over the next several months.

Prosecutor Joe Deters is conducting his own investigation into Plush's death. He said he doesn't want information from the city's outside review to interfere with anyone's testimony, in case he decides to take a case to a grand jury.

The final report will be made public once his office can review it, he said.

"I just want to be able to preserve people in terms of talking about what happened without hearing outside stuff," he said.

The prosecutor's office told WCPO it served Mayor John Cranley with the subpoena Tuesday morning. It requires the city to turn over all findings of fact from an independent investigation into how the police department "failed" to save Plush.

The investigation is expected to wrap up in late September. It's not clear if any investigative work had even begun when Deters issued his subpoena.

 

Plush, 16, suffocated inside his minivan outside the Seven Hills School on April 10 despite making two calls to 911. Cincinnati police officers sent to the school never found him; instead, his father Ron discovered his lifeless body hours later.

Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney announced Monday two firms will lead the independent investigation, tackling different aspects of what went wrong: 21st Century Policing will focus on the police department's response, policies and procedures, while Mission Critical Partners will focus on the 911 center -- both the specific problems the day Plush died, and broader issues there.

RELATED: Troubled 911 center has had 6 leaders in 4 years

Their work could cost taxpayers as much as $185,700, according to records obtained by WCPO: 21st Century Policing quoted a price of $87,500, while Mission Critical Partners said its fees would not "exceed" $98,200.

The police department's own internal investigation largely exonerated the 911 operators, dispatchers and officers of wrongdoing, only faulting the officers for a violation of body camera policy. Elected officials were less certain, calling the internal investigation "incomplete."

RELATED: City admits it could've done more to save teen

"Kyle did everything he should've done -- everything a mom or dad would tell their child to do. And he was failed horribly," Councilwoman Amy Murray said at a hearing last month.

"The calltaker was wrong, the dispatch was wrong, the cops were wrong," Mayor John Cranley told Plush's family at another hearing two weeks later. He and the City Council demanded the independent investigation.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman said he wanted Plush's family to see the final report first, before the city shares it publicly. He also publicly discouraged media from asking for documents and told the firms he didn't want their representatives to answer reporters' questions.

"The key to me is the non-release of information," Smitherman said.

Deters said he told Smitherman what he planned to do, but that no one at the city had asked for the subpoena.

Jack Greiner, a public records expert and partner at Graydon Law, said Smitherman's push for secrecy goes against the spirit of open government.

"We shouldn't have to wait for this investigation. This is a city project, and the fact that they’re farming it out, really, in the spirit of the public records act, shouldn't matter," Greiner said.

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