CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati police officers will now be required to get out of their cars and search by foot, among other changes, when they respond to many calls, the police chief told city leaders Monday.
Police Chief Eliot Isaac made the announcement during City Council’s Law & Public Safety Committee meeting. He and other city officials updated them on reforms in light of Kyle Plush’s tragic death earlier this year. Last month, FOX19 NOW reported this procedure change was coming.
Isaac joined Acting City Manager Patrick Duhaney and Director of Enterprise Technology Solutions Jason Dunn to explain what steps have been taken and what is still in progress.
It was the first public discussion they had since the findings were released from the two independent investigations into how Cincinnati police and 911 call takers responded to Kyle’s calls.
The 16-year-old called for help April 10 as he was trapped inside his minivan at Seven Hills School in Madisonville. Kyle suffocated to death and was not found for hours -- he was eventually found by his father, not first responders.
Ron Plush went to look for his son when the teen didn’t come home.
The consultants' report cleared Cincinnati police in their response but heavily criticized how 911 call takers handled Kyle’s calls and the police internal investigation into the matter.
The city has taken to improve its 911 center since Kyle’s death:
- Earmarking $454,000 to increase 911 staff and to improve technology at the 911 center as part of a 12-month action plan
- Moving oversight of the 911 center away from the Cincinnati Police Department and returning it to civilian control
- Launching a new system called Smart911 designed to make it easier for first responders to find 911 callers in an emergency
Plush’s family was upset by the consultants report and said they think enough had changed to prevent another similar tragedy.
Kyle’s family have been supportive of the independent investigations, but criticized them once they saw the final product. They said they were not comprehensive enough.
They have said they still are searching for answers and won’t stop seeking those in an effort to spare other families that pain.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, who conducted a separate probe into Kyle’s death, has said no criminal charges will be filed.
Noting that three investigations have cleared the police officers of any willful negligence, the leader of the union that represents Cincinnati Police is calling on City Council to “close their unending investigation into the death of Kyle Plush.”
Sgt. Dan Hils has said the continuing series of investigation are not productive or helpful to anyone: the community, city departments, public servants involved and the Plush family.
The Fraternal Order of Police and its legal team will resist further interviews of the officers involved.
Union members recently agreed in a vote to send that message to City Hall.
FOP votes to petition city to end Plush investigation
It’s not clear yet if Cincinnati leaders will request more interviews from the police and call takers who responded to Kyle’s calls.
Duhaney told Council Monday the FOP has indicated they will file a grievance against the city is attempts are made to interview the officers again.
Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman, however, has said he thinks there’s value in continuing and interviewing everyone involved.
“I don’t think there should be a stone un-turned in the case and I don’t think we should rely and I don’t’ think anybody in the Plush’s situation would want anyone to rely on a paper report," he said.
"I think there’s value in live interviews because you get a better texture of what they were thinking and what information they were receiving that you just cant get from a report.”
He said it’s clear that while the city has made tremendous strides, there’s still improvements to be made.
He also stressed that the upcoming 2019 budget has $19 million budget and council must remember to place priorities like improvements at the city’s 911 center over other projects.
Council’s Law & Public Safety Committee will discuss Kyle’s death and reforms again in February.
For the latest updates on the committee’s action plan, click here.