Cincinnati police union leader, lieutenant reprimanded in 'urban ghetto' roll call dispute

Cincinnati police union leader, lieutenant reprimanded in 'urban ghetto' roll call dispute
Cincinnati Police Lt. Danita Pettis in an interview at FOX19 NOW studio in July 2015. (FOX19 NOW/file)
Cincinnati Police Lt. Danita Pettis in an interview at FOX19 NOW studio in July 2015. (FOX19 NOW/file)

AVONDALE, OH (FOX19) - The leader of Cincinnati's police union, a lieutenant who filed a complaint against him and four other police officers are being reprimanded over a dispute during roll calls last year, including one in which the union president referred to one of the city's neighborhoods as an "urban ghetto."

The reprimands were the result of an internal investigation that wrapped up in April and revealed Thursday when the report was released to the media.

Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the union that represents Cincinnati police, will receive a written reprimand and be required to undergo a counseling session as a result of his actions during a visit to the third shift roll call at District 4 police station on Nov. 26, 2017 , the internal investigation report shows.

The third shift commander who filed the complaint that sparked the internal investigation, Lt. Danita Pettis, also will receive a written reprimand and be required to go through a counseling session, the investigation concluded.

In addition, Pettis will receive another notation in her personnel file after internal investigators found she treated subordinate officers inappropriately and for disobeying a direct order from Police Chief Eliot Isaac - 15 minutes after receiving that order - by speaking to the media about the roll call controversy in a radio interview, the report states.

Hils went to the third shift roll call Nov. 26 to speak with officers after receiving complaints about how Pettis treated them including when she sharply criticized a police specialist in front of her peers during a Nov. 22 roll call and her response to a Nov. 17  shots fired incident.

In his interview with internal investigators, he said he went to the meeting because he was told Pettis was "bullying" other officers.

It was not immediately clear that an officer had been shot at, and District 4 Police Specialist Joy Ludgatis, disagreed with Pettis over the timing of when it was confirmed that an officer was shot at.

In a memo to Isaac, one of the officers who attended the Nov. 26 roll call accused Hils as having said "I do not know how she became a police officer. She was able to manage to work her way up and became a lieutenant only because she will kick, scream, b---- and yell it was race, sexism, or whatever. I never would have imagined she would be my superior."

He also was quoted as calling Avondale an "urban ghetto" and that he had "kicked (Pettis') a---" when arresting her 25 years ago.

Hils later apologized for his "urban ghetto" comments and in his interview with internal investigators, Hils also conceded he was wrong to discuss Pettis' arrest.

"Sergeant Hils stated he did not have a good reason for telling the story, and was 'bull crapping' about something he should not have been speaking about. Sergeant Hils stated he made those comments after hearing a recording of Lieutenant Pettis addressing subordinates during a roll call. Sergeant Hils was angered and upset by the way Lieutenant Pettis was speaking to the officers, and may have made these comments out of frustration over Lieutenant Pettis' comments.

On Friday, he said "Obviously, what the chief of police wants to communicate to everybody involved in this is we should stay professional and find a way to get along with each other and not have these things be seen outside the agency. It does not serve us well."

His characterization of Avondale as an "urban ghetto" upset civil rights groups and led to a vote of no confidence in him by The Sentinel Police Association, an organization of African American Cincinnati police officers.

Pettis was abruptly transferred to a day shift in District 3 on the city's West Side in December after filing complaints against Hils and others over his roll call visit.

We asked her to comment Friday, but she did not. She did put us in touch with Officer Lou Arnold, the president of the Sentinel Police Association. She is the group's vice president.

"We are not moving forward yet," he said. "There are still some things to hash out in reference to her discipline. I don't want to elaborate until we meet with some commanders."

Four others were reprimanded as a result of the internal investigation into the roll calls:

  • Officer Thomas DeFranco: He recorded the Nov. 22 roll call on his personal cell phone against department policy.
  • Sgt Dan O'Malley: He did not show up for an internal affairs interview (his third offense for missing meetings, the report notes)
  • Sgt. Jay Kemme: He forwarded a copy of one of the roll call meeting recordings to a retired Cincinnati District 4 police officer who now works as a private investigator
  • Sgt. Michelle Phillips: She recorded a separate meeting with her phone against department policy.

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