Cincinnati Consent Decree Could Be Blueprint For Milwaukee Police-Community Relations

Mar 27, 2018

Milwaukeeans looking for solutions to a tense climate between communities and the police force could look to the city of Cincinnati as an example. The area's population is comparable to Milwaukee, and has dealt with many of the same issues of mistrust between law enforcement and minority communities. 

"We weren't just sitting in a room with attorneys and a federal monitor. We were out in the community explaining what was going on, and asking for ideas from the community as well."

But years of work in Cincinnati has led to a different climate. Their model for change is one that a group called the Community Coalition for Quality Policing would like to see implemented in Milwaukee.

Three key figures in Cincinnati’s effort spent time in Milwaukee recently to talk about that city’s effort, and talk about their experience forming their consent decree. The consent decree, renamed the Cincinnati Collaborative Agreement, is the result of a settlement after the ACLU of Ohio and the Cincinnati Black United Front filed suit against the city, alleging police engaged in racial profiling and discriminatory law enforcement.

"We weren't just sitting in a room with attorneys and a federal monitor," says Kathy Harrell, a Cincinnati police officer and past president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police, or FOP. "We were out in the community explaining what was going on, and asking for ideas from the community as well."

"There's no other city that had the FOP at the table. There's no other city that's ever had the community as a party to the lawsuit that actually is being court supervised, and that was really huge."

"The other thing that was unique about the process is that the community was there from start to finish," says Iris Roley, project manager for Black United Front and lead complainant in a lawsuit against the city of Cincinnati. 

"There are seventeen cities under DOJ consent decrees. There's no other city that had the FOP at the table. There's no other city that's ever had the community as a party to the lawsuit that actually is being court supervised, and that was really huge," says Al Gerhardstein a civil right attorney and principal author of the Cincinnati Collaborative Agreement. *This interview originally aired 11/15/16

» Find all of the Project Milwaukee: To Protect And Serve reports here.

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