City, police union clash latest in tense history

City manager, police union president clash latest in tense history
City Manager Harry Black (FOX19 NOW)
City Manager Harry Black (FOX19 NOW)
Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dan Hils (FOX19 NOW)
Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dan Hils (FOX19 NOW)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The clash that played out in an exchange of letters this week between Cincinnati's city manager and police union leader is nothing new.

Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black wrote Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dan Hils a letter Monday saying Hils violated the police department's media request policy when he took FOX19 NOW through District 5 headquarters on Nov. 16, showing the building's conditions consisting of black mold and cramped working conditions.

Black reminded Hils that the policy states: "Media personnel must have approval of a district section/unit commander or the Public Information Officer before entering non-public areas of a police facility."

"While in non-public areas of a police facility, media personnel must be accompanied by police personnel and wear a Visitor ID Pass."

While Black acknowledged that Hils, as the union president is, "entitled to significant exemptions from administrative management as a result of holding that position," the city manager reminded the police union leader he still is required to follow procedure.

The city, Black noted in his letter, maintains the management right to set police policies and procedures and to determine the manner in which governmental operation are to be conducted.

"Your conduct in allowing unauthorized media access to a police facility undermines these fundamental management rights by disregarding the chain of command within the district and the Cincinnati Police Department," Black's letter reads.

"The City Administration and the Police Administration seek to maintain a cordial and respectful relationship between the City and the FOP. This requires good faith conduct by both parties at all times."

In response, Hils wrote a letter to Black saying he accompanied FOX19 NOW the entire time throughout the tour, which lasted about two hours and expressed concern about District's 5 conditions. The FOP president apologized in the letter for violating the procedure and said he wasn't aware of the finer points.

"This was to ensure that no undercover officers, confidential informants, witnesses, or crime victims were revealed," Hils wrote.

"I further ensured there were no documents or personal data recorded during their visit. I remained by their side the entire visit. I was disappointed that your letter contained only the notification of my procedural violation and not a single line reference the concerns of the Fraternal Order of Police and its members who work or have worked in the building at 1012 Ludlow Avenue."

Hils stressed that his visit to District Five's headquarters with FOX19 NOW was not directed at Black or other specific city officials. Instead, he aimed to showcase a decades-long failure of local government and how that impacts the city's employees.

"I had participated with media inside District Five previously on a more 'positive' story and was not notified of any violation at that time," Hils said.

Earlier this year, Black filed an unfair labor practices complaint against Hils for negotiating with Mayor John Cranley outside Black's negotiating before the city and union reached an agreement on a final contract between the police union and city, a move Hils at the time called hypocritical

Hils was arguing body cameras the police department started rolling out late last summer should be part of contract negotiations and result in more pay for officers.

Once Black filed the complaint, Hils also went public in a radio interview with FOX19 NOW Legal Analyst Mike Allen that the police department's Motorola radios were not properly working.

After the FOP and city officials signed the final contract in September, Black sent a letter to the state asking for the complaint to be dismissed.

Hils said the union wouldn't file a complaint over body cameras, but announced a few weeks later to FOX19 NOW he had instructed the FOP attorney to look into taking legal action against Motorola over the radios.

Black then sent Motorola a letter requesting the police radios be replaced within 30 days or the city would pursue legal options.

A city spokesman told FOX19 NOW officials continue to work closely with Motorola to resolve the issues.

Hils said he expects the matter to be settled without legal action being necessary.

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