CINCINNATI — Friday, a group of Black Cincinnati Police officers called for a concrete plan to boost diversity.
The call comes after a federal judge stripped the department of race- and sex-based hiring goals, stating "no compelling interest" that justifies keeping the goals.
"We're still dealing with racism," said Louis Arnold, Sentinel Police Association president. "We're still dealing with biases when it comes to hiring and promotion across the country. And so there has to be some checks and balances to make sure those things happen."
Judge Susan Dlott stripped the Cincinnati Police Department of its race- and sex-based hiring goals in her ruling. In her decision, Dlott saw no compelling interest to justify them anymore.
Arnold, whose association represents Black police officers and Ohio state Senator Cecil Thomas see things differently.
"It's going to be up to legislators at the local level" to change the ruling, said Thomas, who is also a former Cincinnati police officer.
The 40-year-old consent decree that Dlott overturned was written when Thomas was an officer. The order targeted discrimination in hiring and promotions of a police force that was just 3% women and with fewer than one in 10 officers of color at the time.
The police department currently has seven times more women on the force, and one in four officers is now Black.
Data also showed slight changes year-to-year, but more women and minorities are holding the ranks of lieutenant or higher over the past decade.
A lawsuit motivated the Department of Justice to look more closely at the matter of the decree.
Sergeant Erik Kohler's discrimination claim led to Dlott's order. The president of the Sentinel Police Association is worried about what happens next.
"With the microscope being on police and community relations across the nation because of the George Floyd murder, the citizens want a diverse police department," Arnold said. "They want an officer who can come in and relate to their community and their culture and not just come in with enforcement but coming in looking to build relationships."
The onus is on the Cincinnati police chief, mayor, council and city manager to increase recruitment and create a new policy to boost diversity.
In a statement after Dlott made her decision, Mayor John Cranley said, "We certainly wish the DOJ did not take this action, as the consent decree has been important to our progress. We are evaluating all options to appeal and will do so if possible. We won't stop pressing our case."
While Cranley mounts a challenge before leaving office in four months, Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac said he has a plan, too.
"It is disappointing to see this go away," Isaac said. "I recognized its benefits over the years. We will continue to look towards other avenues to create a diverse workforce that is reflective of the community we serve."