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Cincinnati City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld proposes policy changes in response to protests

Posted at 4:48 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-03 20:05:41-04

CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati City Council member has proposed changes to the city's law enforcement practices as people march in protest of police brutality and the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd.

P.G. Sittenfeld proposed policy change in response to the outcry, including making it illegal for the Cincinnati Police Department to hire an officer with a past record of excessive use of force or misconduct, preventing the police department from being militarized by the federal government and expanding bail reform.

The Collaborative Agreement has prompted many improvements in the police department, Sittenfeld said, but he’d like to see a recommitment to those policies as well as steps to address systemic racism in the community.

“Cincinnati would be crazy, as would any community, to think, 'We’re good, there’s no more improvements to be made.' There are plenty of improvements to be made,” Sittenfeld said.

The Collaborative, put in place in 2002, calls for Cincinnati police and everyday citizens to be partners in making neighborhoods safe; improved education, oversight and accountability within the police department; and better hiring practices by the police department.

Mayor John Cranley said the Cincinnati Police Department practices a very different set of use-of-force policies than it did 20 years ago.

“We have Tasers. We banned choke holds 17 years ago … we have implicit bias training, we have mental health training, we have body cameras,” Cranley said. “We don’t have body cameras on riot gear right now just because it doesn’t fit, but we’re one of the first police departments in the country to outfit everybody with body cameras.”

RELATED: Some CPD officers working protests aren’t wearing body cameras, chief said

The Cincinnati Police Department spent millions on upgraded body cameras earlier this year. The new technology was rolled out in February.

But Sittenfeld said it’s not enough to just point to the language in the agreement; it needs to be recommitted to, and some things, like the Citizen Complaint Authority, need to be fully funded.

In addition to investigating citizen complaints against police, the Citizen Complaint Authority also looks into serious police actions, including shots fired, deaths in custody and major uses of force.

“(It) boils down to priorities, right? Making sure that we have a progressive, reform-embracing police department that is accountable and making sure we’re doing our part to not shy away from tackling systemic racism, but saying we’re going to lean in to do everything we can in Cincinnati,” Sittenfeld said. “If it’s a priority, the budget reflects it. It’s as simple as that.”

Sittenfeld said he has directed the law department to start drawing up ordinances for some of his proposals. They would then go through the committee process.

Read a full list of Sittenfeld's proposed changes here:

  • Strengthening, and funding the next phase of our city’s Collaborative Agreement
  • Immediately reconvening the Manager’s Advisory Group, the body responsible for providing guidance on policing - to allow for increased community involvement and civilian oversight
  • Fully funding the Citizen Complaint Authority
  • Passing an ordinance punishing "knowingly or recklessly" reporting someone to the police on the sole basis of their race, gender or other bias
  • Expansion of our Bail Reform policy. I’m proud to have sponsored the city’s first-ever bail reform legislation and I believe we should expand it, ending the system of wealth-based detention. ... Furthermore, public pressure must be put on Hamilton County, which contains the Prosecutor’s Office, to do the same, as that is where the majority of defendants are processed
  • Advocacy on next steps for divestment from the private prison industry. I am glad to have sponsored City Council’s divestment policy from private prisons. However, the Cincinnati Retirement System Board has not yet carried out our directive, and they must be pressured to do so
  • Given current Constitutional prohibitions against residency requirements for Police Officers, finding creative ways to facilitate more officers living in the community that they police.
  • Similarly, we need to find legally allowable mechanisms to help the composition of our Police Department better reflect the demographics of our city (currently, Cincinnati is ~ 44% black, with a Police Department that is ~29% black)
  • Legislation making it illegal for our Police Department to hire officers who were previously fired or who resigned while being investigated for serious misconduct and/or excessive force
  • Legislation making it subject to a vote of the City Council for the Police Department to receive military weapons or equipment