CINCINNATI — Louis Arnold, the president of Cincinnati’s black police officers’ union, said Wednesday he hoped ongoing protests against police brutality would lead to more black men and women joining the force. He agrees policing needs to change, he said, but believes people within the system are the best-positioned to change it.
“Either you have to get involved outside, or be a police officer and be involved inside,” said Arnold, who leads the Sentinel Police Association. "We've been here before. We've had dialogue. We need action."
Black Cincinnatians have served with the department in various positions for at least 120 years, but the SPA grew out of a specific moment: The Civil Rights movement of the late ‘60s. Its founders saw many of the same problems in 1968 that protesters do today, including police brutality toward black Cincinnatians and flawed procedures that disproportionately penalized the black community.
They weren’t new problems then, either.
“There’s a history and a history that hasn’t been addressed,” Arnold said. “Things that happened in the 1800s to black men are happening in 2020.”
Arnold contended again that black Cincinnatians must take an active role in changing the status quo, including by attempting to build better relationships with law enforcement and becoming police themselves. The process could feel strange for everyone, he said, but it’s necessary.
Forty-four percent of Cincinnatians are black, he added, but only 29% of Cincinnati police officers are. That imbalance can lead to unbalanced policing even when law enforcement agencies go through repeated bias training, as the Cincinnati Police Department has done three times in the last 12 months.
“There needs to be a ton more of that training, and we need officers to be open for the training,” Arnold said. “Open to receive what’s being taught. Don’t sit on their cell phone, stone-faced, ignoring what’s being taught because it’s uncomfortable.
“I realize it’s uncomfortable. In order to bring about change, you have to be uncomfortable."