CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A FOX19 NOW investigation into conditions at Cincinnati Police District 5 headquarters is prompting city leaders to take action.
Cincinnati City Councilman Charlie Winburn is calling for the city to shut down the Ludlow Avenue police station by May.
He unveiled a motion Wednesday that, if passed by council next week, would require City Manager Harry Black to:
- Find a temporary location for District 5's 129 sworn officers and five civilian employees by May 1.
- Identify funds in the 2018 capital budget to fund a location and build a new, permanent police facility.
- Hire an independent, professional building inspector to conduct a thorough and comprehensive inspection of the current building in conjunction with the federal and and state Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
- Provide this report to City Council's Budget and Finance Committee at its first meeting in January
Winburn said he hopes to get the motion before the city's budget committee for approval on Tuesday and then move onto full city council for final approval two days later.
"After revelations of poor working conditions for employees located at Cincinnati Police District 5 Headquarters, it is clear that the administration should quickly move to relocate all staff in a temporary capacity until the administration can find/build a permanent location," the motion states.
"Despite there being mold, recurring bed bugs and unacceptably small rooms in which District 5 staff are required to work, there has been no clear plan going forward to replace this facility."
Councilman Wendell Young joined Winburn in signing the motion Wednesday.
They met in Winburn's office to discuss the measure with Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the union that represents Cincinnati police, and asked him for input.
Hils approved the motion's wording and delivered copies to all City Council Members' offices.
"I think (the motion) is a great start. This is a commitment and that's what you need is a commitment," he said. "You need people on council to be committed and be challenged to make a decision where they say 'yes' or 'no' if they want to go forward and fix this thing."
Hils acknowledged he has politicized problems at District 5, but he said it was all in the goal to motivate city decision makers to take action on an issue for the right reasons.
He applauded Winburn and Young for taking the time to go down to District 5 last week and walk through it with him to see the concerns first hand.
"Policemen are risking their lives, putting their lives on the line every day. I think a minimum place to start is for them in return is a safe place for them to work when they are gearing down, when they are writing their reports, when they are getting dressed, undressed for work, they should be in a safe and reasonable environment," Hils said.
At Hils' request, city administrators agreed to have air quality tests for mold and radon conducted at the police station. Those occurred this week.
Council's Law and Public Safety Committee will receive an update from city officials on those tests and preliminary results at their next meeting, on Monday.
Action on District 5 can come none too soon for the 129 sworn officers and five civilian employees who work there, Hils said.
"The people in District 5 are somewhere between concerned and freaked out," he said.
At least 13 past and current District 5 workers have been diagnosed with cancer, according to a list officers keep on a bulletin board in the building. Hils said Wednesday further research has determined that figure is now about 20, including several who have died.
There is no known link between the building and cancer. And, a mold test FOX19 NOW paid for on a sample taken from inside a basement air duct confirmed it contained a common form of mold known as Cladosporium.
That is the mold type found most often during indoor inspections, according to Mold Inspection Sciences, the Denver, Colorado-based company that sent the sample to a lab and then provided analysis of the results.
While prolonged exposure to high levels of airborne mold spores can cause allergies and trigger asthma attacks, it is not the type associated with pathogens, or bacterial, virus or other microorganism that can cause disease, according to the company's operations manager, Brandon Apple.
Detecting this type of mold at the police station "doesn't necessarily mean it is a problem inside the structure unless it was creating a higher-than-normal airborne mold spore concentration," he said.
Apple said the company can't determine if there are high levels of this form of mold at District 5 because its inspectors don't have access to the building to conduct a thorough, on-site survey and to take more samples and test them.
Still, Winburn, Young and Hils said they remain troubled by mold at District 5 and the fact that several workers there have been diagnosed with cancer.
"There is no such thing as good mold. All mold is bad because there are different people with different immune systems and even just the slightest element of mold can be very serious for asthma patient," Winburn said.
"So, if there is mold there, that's a problem in itself. it needs to be remediated. I just think those officers need to be removed from that district,we find another location, bottom line and then we don't have to second guess anymore."
Yet another officer who currently works in District 5 was diagnosed with cancer, Hils revealed Wednesday.
"That's enough," he said. "It's time to get out of there."
Local civil rights leader and radio talk show host Bishop Bobby Hilton told FOX19 NOW he plans to go before council to urge them to shut down District 5 as soon as possible.
"No one should have to work under those conditions. I have a family member who works out of that district and was just diagnosed with a very serious disease. It's troubling," said Hilton, senior pastor of Word of Deliverance Ministries in Forest Park.
"What I've been told is there's about 20 officers so far that have been diagnosed with this serious illness in that building. I know it's difficult to prove anything, but when you have statistics like that it's hard to think that's just coincidental."
He said is waiting to see what the city's test results determine.
"But regardless of those tests, I still want council to move people out of that building as quickly as possible because too many have become ill. Too many have been diagnosed with a very serious disease that are working in that building. And I don't think that's a coincidence."