CINCINNATI — Two Cincinnati police officers are suing the city and their former boss, Chief Eliot Isaac, for employment discrimination after the disciplinary action they received after using a racial slur while on the job.
One officer, Dennis Barnette, is white. The other, Donte Hill, is Black. The federal trial, which started Monday, stems from two incidents that happened nearly four years ago.
The first happened in September 2018 when Hill was responding to a fight between two men in Westwood. According to court documents, Officer Hill directed an excessive number of unnecessary and profane comments at the two men fighting, including the n-word.
Following the incident, Hill received discipline and counseling from supervisors along with a written reprimand for his behavior. His police powers were not suspended.
The second incident happened in December 2018 when Barnette was on patrol in Roselawn. According to court documents, Barnette witnessed a fight between a man and a woman. When he tried to intervene, the woman struck him in the face. After he was hit, according to an internal CPD report, Officer Barnette said "n***** slapped me in the face." This incident was witnessed by multiple civilians and other officers.
Following this incident, Barnette had his police powers suspended.
After the incident with Barnette, Hill was retroactively disciplined and had his police powers suspended, despite the fact that his initial discipline was already approved by his supervisors.
The lawsuit alleges that Chief Issac was either advised of or realized on his own that the white officer received stricter disciplinary actions taken against him for using the n-word on the job than a Black officer did. According to the lawsuit the officers engaged in identical conduct.
The lawsuit also claims that Hill should not have been retroactively punished and that Barnette should've had his police power reinstated.
Judge Susan J. Dlott presides over the case. It is unclear how long the trial is expected to last.
WCPO will update this news article when more information becomes available.
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