Hilton: Move police out of D5 'immediately'

District 5 has cramped quarters inside and out. Officers park their personal vehicles on the front lawn at times because there isn't enough room in the lot on premises and a spillover lot across the street on Ludlow Avenue. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
District 5 has cramped quarters inside and out. Officers park their personal vehicles on the front lawn at times because there isn't enough room in the lot on premises and a spillover lot across the street on Ludlow Avenue. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
District 5's air quality was tested this week. (Provided by an anonymous source)
District 5's air quality was tested this week. (Provided by an anonymous source)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - As Cincinnati city administrators prepare to release air quality tests Monday taken at District 5 police headquarters amid a FOX19 NOW investigation into concerns about mold, asbestos, mice, bed bugs and other issues, calls to close the building are getting louder.

Local civil rights leader and talk show host Bishop Bobby Hilton said Friday he already has been in contact with city officials and plans to contact Mayor John Cranley.

He is urging them to shut down the Ludlow Avenue building "immediately." The city, he says should temporarily relocate the 129 sworn officers and 5 civilian employees who work there until a new station can be built.

Councilmen Charlie Winburn and Wendell Young are supporting a motion that would require the city manager to do just that by May 1.

Winburn and Wendell said they hope to have enough support to take the measure to City Council for a vote on Wednesday, two days after the Law and Public Safety Committee hears mold and radon preliminary tests results at their meeting Monday.

Hilton told FOX19 NOW in a joint interview Friday with Sgt. Dan Hils, police union president, that he is particularly concerned about a pattern of nearly 20 former and current District 5 police officers diagnosed with cancer, a list that now includes his youngest sister, Angela Hilton, 50, a patrol officer.

He opened a GoFundMe account for his sister that has raised $800 toward a $12,000 goal.

There is no known link or connection to the building and the cancer pattern. And an independent mold test FOX19 NOW had performed on a sample taken from a basement air duct found a common form of mold that is not disease-causing.

But, Hilton said, the cancer count is getting so high, he considers the pattern "an outlier."

"As boldly as we can, we want to send messages to all of city management, to our mayor, to our city manager to all of city council, make sure they understand the severity of the situation. We cannot wait. We are talking about human life here.

"We cannot wait. I am just wondering what type of emotional morale these officers can possibly have to know before they can even hit the street they have to go into a building that could be detrimental to their health?

"How do they expect their morale to be, having to report to a building like that? To have so many fellow officers that have already been diagnosed, can they really expect them to hi the streets and really serve the city with pride?

"How do you do that when it seems the administration is not caring? When that appearance is there, we want to stand with them and say wait a minute. These are our officers. They are doing the best they can to protect and serve. We believe that. Now, let's do some things to protect and serve them immediately."

Hilton said he was stunned to learn his sister had cancer, calling it "hurting" and "painful."

"We don't have cancer in my family. And that's what really knocked us all for a loop, for my sister to be - and I had just seen your reports and your reports were very troubling - and then for my sister to call just a couple weeks later and say 'I was diagnosed with cancer.'" It really threw us for a loop.

"It was devastating to all of us, especially devastating to her, but we are gathering around her doing our best to keep her encouraged, doing our best to keep her lifted and she is under medical care," he said.

"She is still working. We are kind of a family that loves people. She is a police officer. My brother works for the Cincinnati Fire Department and we've just always been into assisting people and helping people."

FOX19 NOW began a series of investigative reports on District 5 last month.

More than a year ago, District 5's commander told a City Council committee in a detailed presentation with pictures the building had mold, asbestos, mice, bugs and a leaky roof.

Problems and overcrowded quarters are nothing new at the 57-year-old building built to be more of a park shelter facility than a police station.

Council, however, ultimately declined to earmark $17 to $20 million to build a new District 5 in the 2017 budget.

The police union leader invited Digital Producer Jennifer Baker and FOX19 NOW's cameras inside the building for an extensive tour to reveal many of the same conditions, calling it "shameful."

He took Baker and Reporter Frankie Jupiter through the two-story building and called for all workers to be moved out "yesterday"

[Cincinnati FOP to Council: Move cops out of 'shameful' District 5 now']

City Manager Harry Black sent Hils a letter five days later, notifying Hils he violated the police department's media policy by taking FOX19 NOW through the station.

The police union leader then sent Black a letter requesting the city have the police station tested for mold and radon.

He also elaborated on the city's oversight and maintenance at District 5 and said a routine environmental audit that was last performed in May 2010 and due to occur every 2-5 years was expected to begin soon.

Earlier this month, the city's environment director wrote in a memo he doubted mold and radon would be found in the building.

Hils and HIlton both told FOX19 NOW Friday that, while they want to see the test results, neither has much faith in them.

Both remain troubled by a pattern of several current and past District 5 officers being diagnosed with various forms of cancer. Hils notes that at least six of the officers diagnosed in recent years were in their 50s.

"I want to see the results of their tests," Hilton said, "but I must say I am not putting confidence in those results because it is so difficult to really pinpoint that, yes, this is causing sickness, yes, this is causing illness. I think the stats should be the determining factor.

"Now, if they go around and say there's 20 officers in at least every district that are being diagnosed with cancer, that's different. But I think this is going to be an outlier and when you see an outlier, you need to act accordingly."

If city officials fail to move the officers into a temporary facility as soon as possible, Hilton said, ""they absolutely would be failing those officers."

Hils confirmed Friday some District 5 officers are now seeking legal advice.

"I don't think the officers want to reveal themselves, but, yeah there are people who are contacting attorneys," he said, declining to elaborate.

So far, he said, District 5 officers' confidence in the city's response to issues at their workplace "is not great at all."

He notes that the city manager's initial response to his raising concerns about District 5 was to just notify him in writing that he violated the police department's media policy.

Hils said he now blames himself for not realizing before how many District 5 officers were being diagnosed with the potentially deadly disease and taking action sooner.

That cancer pattern, he said, has become his number one priority as he seeks to move the police station.

"We need to have a new district and it needs to be a lot sooner than starting to building in 2018 or whatever the budget plans are. There are, without a doubt, some temporary fixes. The city owns lots of properties that have a little more elbow room than District 5."

City officials have said they have taken the complaints raised about District 5 seriously and their goal remains to provide quality work spaces for all employees.

Earlier this week, a city spokesman said as part of the ongoing assessments of the space at District 5, discussions are underway about moving some staff temporarily, though this is still in progress and no final determinations have been made.

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