UCPD review team hears concerns about confusion

Posted at 10:33 PM, Mar 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-02 23:51:36-05

CINCINNATI -- A top-to-bottom review of the University of Cincinnati Police Department is already underway. The department's police chief and his second-in-command have left, after the review found "gaps" in oversight.

And, at a community meeting with the review team Wednesday night, a woman living near UC raised concerns about confusion. Specifically: Who can patrol what parts of the neighborhoods in Uptown?

UC President Santa Ono ordered the independent review after then-officer Ray Tensing shot and killed unarmed motorist Samuel DuBose during an off-campus traffic stop last summer.

MORE: Here's what review team will look at

Because of a countywide memorandum of understanding, UC police had authority to conduct police work -- including traffic stops for serious violations -- outside campus boundaries. Not long after DuBose's death, Cincinnati City Council revoked that agreement; university police are allowed to patrol areas around campus for safety purposes as part of an interim agreement, though off-campus traffic stops still aren't allowed.

Julie Murray, who lives in Cincinnati's CUF neighborhood adjacent to UC, said a university officer gave her a warning in early January for not having the correct tag on her license plate. Murray told the review panel, organized by nationally recognized police monitoring firm Exiger, that she knew the officer shouldn't have been doing that.

"My point was to illustrate the fact that everybody is confused about who has the authority and responsibility to do what," Murray said. "Who's accountable for what?"

Robin Engel, a crime researcher and the university's vice president for Safety and Reform, said UCPD was acting to investigate Murray's claim and would use body camera footage to figure out what happened and which officer conducted the stop.

Nicole Avant came to Wednesday night's meeting from a bit of a different angle: Her son attends UC, and her father is a police officer. She wants to know officers aren't just showing up when bad things happen; and, she said, she senses things are already changing.

"I just want UCPD engaged in more service encounters than encounters where they're questioning individuals or punishing them, because that can be traumatic," she said.

Jason Goodrich resigned as UCPD chief last week, as did  now-former Maj. Tim Thornton, Engel said. The decision came following interviews with internal personnel and talks with key department and university leaders regarding UCPD’s mission.

UC Director of Public Safety and former Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. James Whalen will serve as interim UCPD chief. Whalen said in an interview that the review has shown some "gaps in management and oversight."

Jeff Schlanger, managing director and president of Exiger's Advisory Group, declined to discuss any specifics of Goodrich's departure during Wednesday night's meeting.

Exiger expects to have an interim report ready by April, and a final report by June 1.

Tensing, whose attorney says he feared for his life during the July 2015 traffic stop, pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. His trial is scheduled for Oct. 24.