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Council members discuss Cincinnati PD's policy on racial slurs

Cincinnati police
Posted at 1:11 PM, Jan 11, 2019

CINCINNATI — A Cincinnati City Council committee approved legislation submitted by Mayor John Cranley to implement training programs that help city employees recognize and eliminate "explicit and implicit bias as they perform their City functions."

Council's consideration for the emergency ordinance follows the suspension of two Cincinnati officers who were caught using the same racial slur while arresting black suspects in two separate 2018 incidents. Members of the Law and Public Safety Committee met Friday to discuss the officers' behavior, the process for penalties and what those penalties should be.

Officers Donte Hill, who used the word while responding to a domestic dispute Sept. 26, and Dennis Barnette, who used the word while arresting a woman at the Brownstone Nightclub Dec. 23, were both restricted to desk duty after the incidents reached Chief Eliot Isaac’s attention.

The chief said it doesn't matter if you're white or black, that word is not appropriate.

"The consistent thing that I've heard across the board is that everyone unilaterally agrees that the word is unacceptable and should not be used," Isaac said.

Council member Jeff Pastor said a decision to fire Officer Donte Hill, a black officer, would be too harsh of a punishment.

"In the African American community, I can guarantee about 70 percent see nothing wrong with what Donte Hill said," Pastor said.

The meeting Friday follows a recommendation from another council member who wants a zero-tolerance policy for police officers caught using racial slurs. Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard said Thursday that she believes all officers in the department - not just those being disciplined - should receive ongoing implicit bias and cultural competency training to ensure they can interact respectfully with other cultural groups.

"You can’t take someone who has never been around an African-American community, plop them in the middle of an African American community and expect them to do their jobs well," she said during a news conference.

Some committee members presented the idea of a first-offense firing. Current policy calls for an officer to commit two offenses before being fired for racist behavior. Isaac said he'll present a recommendation when the full investigation is complete. The ordinance goes before the remaining council members on Wednesday.