Cincinnati police officer under investigation for using 'N' word during arrest

Updated: Dec. 27, 2018 at 6:54 PM EST
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A white Cincinnati police officer was suspended Wednesday after he used a racial slur while he attempted to arrest a black woman during an incident at Brownstone Nightclub in Roselawn on Saturday, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Officer Dennis Barnette's use of the slur can be heard on the body camera of a fellow officer, Police Chief Eliot Isaac wrote in an email to his boss, City Manager Patrick Duhaney.

"This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated inside the department," Isaac wrote.

Isaac shared details of the incident via email Wednesday night with Duhaney, who in turn notified other city officials. The emails were obtained by The Enquirer. According to Isaac’s email, Barnette responded to the Reading Road nightclub to assist with parking complaints and traffic control. During the course of his response, Barnette tried to arrest the woman, and she pushed him.

“Subsequent to the incident, Officer Barnette is clearly heard on a nearby officer’s body-worn camera using a racial slur ... ( the “N” word),” Isaac wrote.

The mother of the alleged target of the slur says the officer was physical with her daughter.

“So the fact that he grabbed her and slammed her, I was really upset about that,” said Yolanda Miller. “How dare you use your badge and your position and the authority that you have to push on a defensive woman?”

Barnette’s police powers have been suspended, and he’s restricted to desk duty. An internal investigation has also begun.

"I share Chief Isaac’s concerns regarding this matter," Duhaney told city officials in his email. "It is unacceptable and not in line with the standard of conduct we expect from city employees."

The Cincinnati Branch of the NAACP says it strongly condemns the comment, and released this statement Thursday:

“The Cincinnati Branch of the NAACP strongly condemns the racist comment from Cincinnati Police Officer Dennis Barnette … while in the performance of his duties he used the N-word directed towards an African American female while responding to a call. The use of a racial slur has no place in society, nor working for a police department that claims to be a beacon of bias free policing and accountability. The word used is hateful, and coming from someone with the authority to use deadly force, is dangerous to those whom he is sworn to serve and protect. Officer Barnette’s actions disgraced not only him but the department and city that employ him. The tone is set at the top and we expect those in authority to act accordingly and terminate this officer from his position and that he not be allowed to serve as a police officer.”

FOX19 NOW reached out to the president of the Cincinnati FOP but have not yet received a response.

Members of city council were quick to react. Vice Mayor Chris Smitherman said he has not seen the video but says the behavior of the officer is “absolutely unacceptable.” Smitherman said the city manager is out of town so he felt he needed to address the issue immediately. He wants to make sure they identify and deal with this one officer’s behavior and not let it reflect on all of the others.

“It’s a serious issue. We’re going to take it very seriously. We’re gonna investigate it, we’re gonna get to the bottom of it. We will be very transparent in that investigation,” said Smitherman.

A February 2014 police memo shows Barnette was given the department’s Award for Exemplary Conduct. The award is given to members of the department who consistently conduct themselves in a highly professional manner, leading by example for co-workers to follow, for a continuous period of 36 months free of written reprimands, suspensions.

Here is the full email from Police Chief Isaac regarding Officer Barnett’s conduct:

"I want to make you aware of an incident that occurred on Saturday 12-23-18 in District Four. Officer Dennis Barnette, assigned to D4 third shift, responded to the Brownstone Nightclub located at 7733 Reading Road to assist with parking complaint and traffic control. During the course of his response, Officer Barnette attempted to arrest a female patron of the establishment. During this encounter the female resisted Officer Barnette’s attempt to arrest her by pushing the officer. Subsequent to the incident, Officer Barnette is clearly heard on a nearby Officer’s Body Worn camera using a racial slur (the "N" word).

This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated inside the department. I have directed that his police powers be taken and he is restricted to desk duty. I have also directed the department’s Internal Investigations Section to begin an immediate investigation to determine all of the facts of the incident. I will keep you updated on the progress of the investigation and have a recommendation for discipline to you at the conclusion of the disciplinary process."

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