Attorneys say they are filing lawsuit over District 5 police station

District 5 basement air ducts on Nov. 16 when FOX19 NOW took an exclusive tour of the building with the police union leader. (FOX19 NOW)
District 5 basement air ducts on Nov. 16 when FOX19 NOW took an exclusive tour of the building with the police union leader. (FOX19 NOW)
This sticker was on the boiler in the basement of District 5 when FOX19 NOW toured the facility Nov. 16. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
This sticker was on the boiler in the basement of District 5 when FOX19 NOW toured the facility Nov. 16. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
Parking is so crowded outside Cincinnati Police District 5, officers park their personal vehicles on the front lawn at times. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
Parking is so crowded outside Cincinnati Police District 5, officers park their personal vehicles on the front lawn at times. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - In a FOX19 NOW Investigation we have followed from the start, at least two attorneys say they are ready to file a lawsuit in regards to problems at Cincinnati Police District 5 headquarters.

One of the lawyers is a former Cincinnati police officer: Tara Clark Newberry.

"I've been in District 5 many times. It's a mess. It's disgusting," she said in a live interview at FOX19 NOW late Thursday.

"It is personal for me because I know what it takes to become an officer. I know what's asked of you. And I don't ever remember being asked to be exposed to chemicals and other types of neurotoxins and carcinogens in the manner in which it appears to have occurred. No one ever asked us to do that."

City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething said in a statement Friday the law department hasn't received any claim or complaint regarding District 5 or from the individuals who work at the District.

"If and when we receive a claim or complaint, we will diligently investigate the validity of the claims and defend the City as necessary."

City Councilman Wendell Young responded "Good," when FOX19 NOW informed him of the pending lawsuit.

"Maybe now it will force us to do something," he said.

Councilman Charlie Winburn also thought the looming litigation would have a positive impact.

"This is precisely the reason I'm pushing for the administration to find a temporary and ultimately permanent location for our District 5 staff," he said.

"I welcome this step and any other that will eventually get our officers in a clean, safe environment."

District 5 police station covers a large portion around the University of Cincinnati and overall serves Clifton, Clifton Heights, University Heights, Fairview, Camp Washington, Northside and Winton Hills.

Problems and overcrowded quarters are nothing new at the 58-year-old building designed to be more of a park shelter facility than a police station. Police commanders past and present have unsuccessfully tried for years to find ways to build a new headquarters.

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

Council, however, ultimately declined to build a new facility.

FOX19 NOW began a series of investigative reports on District 5 on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton in November.

Our cameras are the only ones permitted inside so far to capture images of conditions the police union president described as "shameful" as he called for the city to relocate the 129 officers and 5 civilian employees who work there.

Sgt. Dan Hils exclusively took us on a tour, pointed out for our cameras mold, asbestos, spiders, a bed bug infestation, mice, a leaky roof and cramped quarters.

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

Since then, he said our reporting led other officers touched by cancer to come to him and share their stories. He has become troubled by a pattern at least 25 past and present District 5 officers diagnosed with cancer, including several who have died.

Six of those in particular give him pause: all in their 50s when they died in 2015 and 2016.

Five of those six had jobs that kept them mostly in the building, he notes.

The attorneys say they also are dismayed by the cancer figures, ones they say go up almost hourly as they gather more information.

"Well, the numbers tell us that something is going on," said Newberry's co-counsel, mass tort and class action attorney Deborah Dixon of San Diego, California.

"The numbers in this are statistically improbable that there is not some causation or correlation to the amount of officers who have been affected or diagnosed with cancers or other autoimmune disease or other life threatening diseases compared to the time they worked at district five or in buildings that have been contamination with toxins.

"And we know that the city, unfortunately, is claiming that their tests show that it's clean but, in our experience in doing other cases with families and individuals who have been contamination by toxins, it's not just one test and it's not just one area.

"There's a lot of information that goes into determining the effect of an exposure to toxins over a long period of time or a high concentrated amount of toxins over a short period of time."

Cincinnati city officials conducted air quality tests at Hils' request last month.

Those tests, including mold and radon, gave it "pretty much a clean bill of health," according to City Manager Harry Black.

There also is no known link between the building and cancers.

[Related story: City Manager: Air quality tests give District 5 'clean bill of health']

But Hils suspects there is. The cancer pattern has become his priority as he works to raise awareness about the issue and backs a motion from Winburn to close District 5 and relocate officers into a temporarily facility by May.

Councilman Chris Seelbach and Councilman Young, a former Cincinnati police officer who once worked at District 5, signed the motion in a show of support.

It is not clear, however, when it  might go up for a vote.

The motion was to be filed with the council clerk Thursday so it could go to the budget committee next week and then onto full council for a vote.

But that plan fell by the wayside amid reports the FBI seized several boxes from Winburn's office. His aide says they mostly contain old newspapers she wanted to take home and read. Winburn said he didn't know the feds took his boxes until he was contacted by the media.

There is no evidence of wrongdoing by the Councilman's office. Authorities have not released full details on what prompted the seizure.

Winburn said he believes political enemies are trying to make him look bad by contacting authorities.

Meanwhile, the lawyers say they are working as quickly as they can to gather as much information about families and District 5 officers who may have been impacted.

"Every couple of hours we find out about someone else and somebody else," Newberry said. "It's more devastating and more drastic than I thought it was in just seeing the handful of people that I personally knew, I personally worked with being affected by it and then now I wondering who else is potentially exposed, who is going to be next and when does this stop?"

Newberry and Dixon said they think city officials should immediately relocate all District 5 employees to another facility to make sure  they are not at risk.

"Until they know for sure that this building isn't the problem, I don't see how they can respond any other way," Newberry said.

"We think the building is the problem and I think there's a lot of issues here that we need to explore, but I don't see how you can expose these people to risk knowing what you know now."

Dixon added: "And we want to start testing immediately and we need to have additional testing, not just one test in one area or one test in the building at one time. We need to start testing because without affirmative evidence that it is not an issue for years then they can't keep exposing officers who are serving on the front lines of this city.

"Over the last few days, we've heard about a lot of toxins that are in the building or have been in the building for years.

"And we don't know the extent  of other toxins that may be in the building that individuals who work there just didn't know where in the building or just learned they were in the building . Some of these individuals worked in this building for years and didn't know they were being exposed to toxins, that's the problem.

"There needs to be air vapor tests. There needs to be different types of toxins tests where they can test the different fibers of the building itself to see what's been living in there, what the building has been exposed to and there are all kinds of tests that experts can go in and link with the floor, with the air ducts, with the walls themselves and see what's been in the building.":

Newberry said they've heard from several different people a target range used to be in the basement and lead also will be part of tests they hope to conduct in the building,

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