FOP leader criticizes District 5 cancer cluster study 'snow job'

Cincinnati Police Sgt. Dan Hils (FOX19 NOW)
Cincinnati Police Sgt. Dan Hils (FOX19 NOW)

CLIFTON, OH (FOX19) - The leader of the union that represents Cincinnati police is criticizing a cancer cluster study at one of the police department's headquarters.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health privately met Nov. 15 at Cincinnati Police District 5 on Ludlow Avenue with officers, city officials from the risk management and building departments and the FOP president, Sgt. Dan Hils.

"Finally, we were led to believe there would be a "Cancer Cluster" study and most of the city's representatives there were cooperative and some even helpful," Hils wrote in a Facebook post Monday.

"Risk management offered to research and mail questionnaires to all past and present District Five employees that could be found. The union offered information on the surge of cancer that was documented on the many media reports about our concerns."

But NIOSH notified the city in writing Monday that District 5 employees diagnosed with cancer before 2014 will not included in the study, Hils wrote.

That is too limited, Hils said, expressing disappointment.

"This will not include most of the 2015 and 2016 deaths that led us to this concern. It will not include most of cancer survivors still living with the fear of the disease returning," he wrote.

"This number will likely be used in a set group of people that have worked recently in (District 5 headquarters) or work there currently. We will be unaware what will be their health future as relates to any recent effects of environmental factors. A real survey of decades is possible, but apparently not desired for some reason.

"I called the NIOSH doctor that wrote the correspondence. She stated that this small sample is what "the team" recommended. I do not have a degree in math, medicine or statistics, but I think there is about a 95% chance of a snow job coming. Good thing I have front wheel drive."

From 2015-2016, there have been six cancer-related deaths and 13 cancer diagnoses of staff under the age of 60 allegedly linked to the D5 building, according to Hils.

In all, he has said, more than 30 past and present District 5 workers over the years have been diagnosed with cancer.

The cancer cluster study is being closely watched by some relatives of former District 5 officers who died of cancer.

"Hoping my brother, Sgt. Bill Kyde, did not die of cancer for nothing," Teresa Kyde Voegele wrote early Tuesday in a Facebook comment on this story. "I hope no one else has to die before something is done about District 5 building."

In response, NIOSH sent Hils a letter Tuesday that also went to the city indicating they would review other documented cancer cases the police union wishes to share and their initial information request is the first step to evaluating a possible cancer cluster.

"To understand recent health concerns, in our letter dated November 20, 2017, we requested information on 'each current or past District 5 employee diagnosed with cancer since January 1, 2014.' This sentence was intended to request information on all current or past District 5 employees who had been identified with cancer since 2014. It was not intended to restrict information to only employees with new diagnoses of cancer as of 2014," wrote Dr. Sophia Chiu, of NIOSH"s Hazard Evaluations and Technical Assistance Branch Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies.

"We apologize for the confusion. As we stated at our opening meeting at District 5 headquarters on November 15, 2017, if union, management, or employee representatives have other records concerning District 5 employees with cancer, we would be happy to review those records as well."

FOX19 NOW was the first to tell you about concerns related to District 5 in a series of investigative reports that began just over a year ago, in November 2016.

Hils, exclusively took our cameras inside the building to expose what he said were "shameful" conditions inside.

He turned to us for help after police commanders unsuccessfully tried for years to convince council members to spend money on a new building.

As our cameras rolled, Hils pointed out concerns about mold, asbestos, spiders, a bed bug infestation, mice, a leaky roof and cramped quarters.

During our tour, we asked about the number of times so far that year the building had been sprayed with pesticides as part of bed bud treatment. We also asked if anyone who worked in the building was getting sick.

After our tour, the police union asked the city to conduct air quality tests

Those tests, conducted in December 2016, found no major problem and gave the building essentially a "clean bill of health," according to Black.

Still, saying the aging building was too small for current needs, Black recommended earlier this year that council renovate the city's vacant permit center on Central Parkway in Clifton into a new headquarters.

He later agreed to the police union's request to move 35 investigators and other non-patrol employees into another police facility until the new building is ready in 2019.

Those workers temporarily relocated Oct. 24 into space at the police department's Spinney Field Training Complex in Lower Price Hill.

The lobby closed to the public late last month.

But some 90 employees were left behind, mostly patrol officers. They are upset to be left behind and want to go, too.

The move to Spinney Field is considered a quick fix until the city can negotiate a lease to put all officers in a former bank building in Camp Washington.

The mayor has pledged free cancer screenings for past and present District 5 officers not already paid for by city insurance.

That came after the police union unanimously voted last month to demand the city move all officers out immediately and pay for cancer screenings for all active and retired District 5 officers.

If the city fails to comply with their demands, the union will consult lawyers, Hils wrote on Facebook.

In February, FOX19 NOW brought this cancer cluster study possibility to the attention of city and police officials.

We asked them why police management requested NIOSH conduct a cancer cluster study on their Criminal Investigation Section when it was located on Broadway Street in downtown Cincinnati in 2008 after five CIS employees were diagnosed with cancer between 1998 and 2008 - but not District 5.

We never got a response.

City administrators also rejected a request in early this year from prominent civil rights leader Bishop Bobby Hilton for the city to request a "cancer outlier study" on District 5.

Hilton called for the review after his sister, then a District 5 officer, was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Most council members told FOX19 NOW they thought Hilton's proposal had merit and they would like that information, too.

At that time, however, a city spokesman, Rocky Merz, told FOX19 NOW city officials would not be discussing cancer rates among employees at various city work spaces.

In October, we asked the cancer cluster question again, posing it to Councilman Charlie Winburn during a press conference at his City Hall office. He was announcing he asked Gov. John Kasich to intervene and declare a public health emergency to shut down District 5.

Winburn responded to our question by saying that asking NIOSH to conduct a cancer cluster study was not his job and would be more appropriate for the city manager or Kasich to do.

The next day, however, he fired off a memo to Black directing him to do just that.

Shortly after, Cranley and Police Chief Eliot Isaac said they supported such a study, and city officials formally asked NIOSH for it by day's end.

Copyright 2017 WXIX. All rights reserved.