CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - An organization for black Cincinnati police officers took a unanimous no confidence vote Thursday in Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dan Hils.
The move comes after a black police official, third shift District 4 commander Lt. Danita Pettis, filed an equal employment opportunity (EEO) complaint against Hils and the police department launched an internal investigation.
It shows a clear and growing racial divide within the Cincinnati Police Department amid yet another clash between Hils and Officer Eddie Hawkins, the leader of the Sentinel Police Association.
Hawkins announced the no confidence vote in a Facebook post Thursday night.
"Sgt. Hils has failed to equally represent African American officers within the Cincinnati Police Department in matters ranging from discipline to promotion,"
"Sgt. Hils does not value or respect CPD's African American officers. We pay the same dues to the FOP as our white counterparts and deserve to be treated equally. Based on Sgt. Hils' treatment of African American officers seeking his assistance for representation during his tenure as FOP President, we are unable to trust Sgt. Hils, and thus the Fraternal Order of Police, to represent African American officers."
The last time the Sentinels took a no-confidence vote was in 2013, when they voted no confidence in then-Police Chief James Craig, accusing him of failing to level the playing field for minorities to advance within the department.
Hils was overwhelmingly elected FOP president in December 2015 and was unopposed in re-election this month.
Citing the ongoing internal investigation, Hils declined comment to FOX19 NOW Thursday.
Pettis also declined our interview request Thursday and was previously unavailable for requests earlier this week and late last week.
In her Nov. 28 complaint to Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, Pettis alleged that Hils undermined her authority by speaking to the third-shift roll call she supervises on her night off, Nov. 26, according to our news partner, the Cincinnati Enquirer. A witness statement was also submitted by Sgt. Dan O'Malley.
According to O'Malley's statement, the Enquirer reports, Hils said working for Pettis made District 4 officers' job even more difficult: "You already have it tough policing in an urban ghetto environment."
After the Cincinnati NAACP chapter and other local civil rights organizations accused Hils of acting with "recklessness," Hils apologized for the "urban ghetto" comment in a Facebook post.
Hils said he went to roll call at District 4 headquarters in response to alleged misconduct by Pettis in the roll call meeting the night before.
She is heard yelling at a subordinate officer in front of other subordinates at Nov. 22 roll call on an audio recording obtained by FOX19 NOW.
Pettis defended her actions during a previous roll call after a shots-fired call from another officer came in just as roll call was about to begin, according to the recording.
The shots-fired call was later determined to be a shots-fired at police call, according to the audio recording, and she calmly explained why waited to send back-up until it was clear the officer reported he was shot at.
Then, she lit into the subordinate officer, Joy Ludgatis, raising her voice to the point of yelling, according to the recording.
"You sit there in the comfort of the office, in the comfort of the district and answer telephones every night and you are going to sit there and complain about who didn't go where? Why didn't you get up and run out of roll call? Why didn't you go?"
"Because you kept everybody in-" Ludgatis responded.
"Why-OK! If you felt like that that, then why didn't you say to my face? Why didn't you say 'uh, Lt., can we respond on this run? I feel like we should be out in the field. No disrespect but can we respond on this incident?. Why didn't you be woman enough to say that in my face?"
"Because you would act just like you are now," Ludgatis told her.
Pettis responded: "I'm acting like I'm telling you, you need to realize your place and you need to get in it. You ain't running anything here, you ain't in command of nothing, you ain't taking no supervisory test therefore, I could care less, could give two craps about what you think."
Pettis also has filed an EEO complaint with the Ohio Civil Rights Commission, the Enquirer reports.
The commission investigates charges of discrimination in several areas, including employment. The state civil rights investigation essentially freezes the earlier internal investigation, and the state commission's powers include issuing subpoenas, offering mediation and collecting financial settlements.
In her civil rights complaint to the state, according to the Enquirer, Pettis writes that Hils, whom she describes as a "Caucasian male," made "nasty, profanity-spewed, racially-negative comments that (have) resulted in national media attention."
She also writes that she is an FOP member in good standing and a police employee since 1999.
"I have been unlawfully discriminated against because of my race and gender," Pettis wrote.
Pettis filed another internal EEO complaint on Nov. 28 against Ludgatis and Officer Tamera Brown records obtained by FOX19 NOW show.
"Specialist Ludgatis and Offier Brown pressured (attempted) Officer William Keuper and Offier Elizabeth McNay to sign a petition against me. They did not want to sign 3 times. The officers are also creating a hostile work environment to undermine my command of my relief," she wrote in the complaint.
While Hils declined to talk Thursday, several of his colleagues defended him on Facebook, saying he tirelessly advocates equally for the best for all officers, regardless of race.
"It is time to show our support for our FOP president Dan Hils," wrote Kevin Osuna. "Dan Hils is one of the hardest working FOP president we have had in years.I didn't here any b------ when we got our raise or new dental insurance and as far as standing up for the beat cops he has do a great job. So post this on your facebook " I STAND BEHIND DAN."
Terry Sherman, a retired Cincinnati police sergeant and Sentinel member who now works in the FOP office, said Hils shows no racial disparity.
"I respect President Eddie Hawkins, and I do not as a Sentinel member support the decision of a no confidence vote of FOP President Dan Hils. He just today in a peer review hearing supported an African-American officer who faced a forty hour suspension. Because the FOP President's representation and his peers, it was reduce to an eight hour suspension."
Another officer lamented the rife between the leaders of the police union and Sentinels.
"It's a sad day for the police department," he wrote. "I wasn't long ago (2 years) that Dan Hils, (FOP Vice President) Don Meece, Eddie Hawkins and Marcus McNeil were featured in the Sunday Enquirer talking about unification. What has changed?"
Linda Pope, whose late husband was a Cincinnati police officer fatally shot with his partner 20 years ago, wrote a lengthy defense of Hils on Facebook Friday morning.
While not condoning his actions, she pointed out his accomplishments since he became the union leader.
"Do I condone his use of the words he used? Absolutely not," she wrote. "But I am not perfect. Neither is anyone else. We all have said things we regret and made mistakes, but to have this take priority over an abuse of power situation makes no sense to me.
She suggested a double standard may be at play, saying her complaint to the city's citizens police overnight board about a police officer who wrote a racially fueled Facebook post was rejected.
"A while back, there was a post on Facebook, a Cincinnati officer's private page, that absolutely blew me away. This officer stated, "all my Afro America friends and family, make sure that you are in a public place and comply to all of their commands because they are looking for a reason to kill a black man…".
"I think everyone knows I am a huge supporter of Law Enforcement, but this post insulted me and the memory of my late husband, who died in the line of duty next to his African American partner, to the very core. I filed a complaint with the Citizens Complaint Authority for the City of Cincinnati.
"A few weeks later I received a letter stating that my complaint did not meet the guidelines in which a review would be conducted.
"Seriously?" she wrote. "I had to ask myself: Is it because the officer is African American, and I am white? Would the response had been the same had the races been reversed?" she wrote.
Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said he finds the whole controversy sad and unnecessary.
"I use the word ghetto all the time," he said. "I use the word thug. Punks. I use those words all the time and I will continue and they are not racial terms.
"There's white ghettos. There's all kinds of ghettos, all kinds of people live in ghettos. I"m not going to stop saying those words because people in Cincinnati don't like it or people in New York City don't like it.
"Political correctness has gone amuck and people are fed up with it. You're not allowed to say anything anymore, according to certain people. You're either a sexist, you're a racist, a homophobe and on and on and on."