CINCINNATI — As the approval deadline for Cincinnati’s 2022 city budget approaches, five of City Council’s nine members have already signed a motion supporting the allocation of an additional $400,000 to the Citizen Complaint Authority, an independent agency that investigates citizen complaints about police conduct.
But the leader of Cincinnati’s police union says the group doesn’t deserve that money — and that increasing its funding will directly make the city more dangerous by discouraging police officers from doing their jobs.
“More funding for the CCA will equal less proactive policing,” said Sgt. Dan Hils, president of Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police, on Wednesday. “Less proactive policing will equal more violence."
The CCA is a direct product of the Collaborative Agreement and its promise — circa 2003 — that the city and its police agency would work harder to develop positive relationships with its Black community. The agreement itself was created to settle civil rights lawsuits brought against both agencies after the 2001 police killing of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed Black man shot to death in Over-the-Rhine while attempting to avoid arrest for nonviolent crimes.
CCA investigators have the power to review “serious interventions by police officers,” including shootings, deaths in custody, use-of-force incidents and alleged instances of racial profiling, and make next-step recommendations to the city manager.
"It's very important because it enables quality service for the citizens of Cincinnati,” said CCA executive director Gabe Davis on Wednesday. “And it's also important to the police officers that we're investigating.”
An additional $400,000 would make a significant difference to his agency, he added. At the time he spoke to WCPO, Davis estimated the CCA faced a backlog of over 120 cases and that getting through them could take until 2024.
But Hils is opposed to the funding, and on Wednesday he had a specific case on his mind: That of Brandon Davis, a Black man arrested near Wayne Playground on Feb. 4, 2019.
Davis, who is not related to Gabe Davis, was walking near the park late that night when two police officers attempted to stop him. He kept walking. In his ongoing civil rights suit against the two officers, Davis’ attorney writes that Davis has autism that makes him “adhere strictly to routines,” “experience adverse effects in response to overwhelming sensory input” and struggle with concentration when multiple people speak to him at once.
The two Cincinnati officers eventually detained Davis and stunned him multiple times with a Taser while he attempted to call his mother on his cell phone.
The charges filed against him — resisting arrest and being in a park after hours — would eventually be dropped.
And the CCA ruled on Monday that the two officers who restrained and stunned Davis had used excessive force. The organization did not recommend discipline for either.
“The force used here was excessive,” Gabe Davis, the CCA director, said Wednesday. “The offense was quite minimal. Being in the park after dark was essentially what they were investigating. A park-after-dark offense is not that serious … we also saw there was no active aggression, no immediate threat."
"They have no basic understanding of the law whatsoever,” he said. “When police officers stop you and ask for you identification because they have something to cite you on, you have to stop for them. The CCA basically said they don't."
The city of Cincinnati must have a final, approved 2022 budget by the end of June.