‘Wrong, racist, and we will not stand for it’: Mayor addresses use of ‘n-word,' announces bias training

Mayor introduces emergency ordinance

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley announced measures to address racial and implicit bias at a news conference Friday morning.

Mayor Cranley gave his first statements on the use of the ‘n-word’ by two Cincinnati officers. He called it ‘wrong, racist' and said ‘we will not stand for it.’

“Years ago myself and Councilman Smitherman back when he was a councilman and I was a councilman, attempted to terminate officers who used the ‘n-word’ and we were unsuccessful,” Cranley said. “But that doesn’t mean it’s OK and we need to set a clear moral tone as to what’s right and wrong.”

Mayor John Cranley is speaking for the first time about Cincinnati officers' use of the 'n-word' on the job. He's also announcing measures to address racial and implicit bias within the workplace. >> https://bit.ly/2C0JskB

Posted by FOX19 on Friday, January 4, 2019

In December, body camera footage surfaced showing the two Cincinnati officers using the slur.

One, who is white, Dennis Barnette, was stripped of his police powers, gun and badge and placed on desk duty just days after his body camera caught him saying the ‘n-word.’ An internal investigation into the matter remains ongoing.

But earlier this year, another officer who is black, Donte Hill, was just given a reprimand. He also was captured on his camera uttering the slur Sept. 26.

The chief has now suspended Hill’s powers, too, and sent a memo explaining the situation to the city manager.

Mayor Cranley and City Manager Patrick Duhaney addressed the punishment of the officers by sharing their new policy for such actions.

Duhaney said he noticed many office policies didn’t have strong or clear discipline requirements. He said in October he revised the policy covering misbehavior to make it clear what is expected of employees and supervisors.

The city manager said he feels that the policy now has ‘fair discipline’ that would hold up in court.

That discipline includes 40 hours of pay lost, sensitivity training and rehab. A second offense would result in termination.

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The uses of the N-word and the differing punishments have drawn comment from a number of officials and organizations.

That includes the Sentinel Police Association, which represents African-American officers in the Cincinnati Police Department. They are calling for cultural competency and bias training for all officers.

Now, only police recruits receive that training.

In a tweet from Jan. 2, council member Greg Landsman suggested council would “push for change in the weeks ahead,” mentioning that workers in “any other job” would resign or be fired after using such a slur.

And on Thursday, Sgt. Dan Hils, president of the union that represents Cincinnati police, posted to the Support The Blue In Cincy Facebook page:

“The officer, who has yet to have his due process in an official hearing, is a father of five and a ten year veteran of the agency. He has been working nights in some of the most dangerous areas of the city. Officer Hill once witnessed a fellow officer stabbed. Imagine Officer Hill’s trauma after such an event. No matter, Councilman Landsman has grandstanding to do!”

He continued:

“Council members push for firing of Marine Corps veteran who had been deployed during the Iraq war and survived a near miss by a scud missile. There is much more that you should know about Officer Barrnett. No matter, Council members have get their screen time!”

Hils had previously released a statement on the slurs that read, in part: “Although we hear it often in the street, there is no place for it in a professional agency.”

Cranley also used the press conference to address new bias training the city plans to implement immediately.

The training covers implicit and explicit bias.

“Explicit bias is using the ‘n-word’ and that’s totally unacceptable,” Cranley said. “Obviously in light of recent events we need a refresher on that.”

Cranley used the tragic Kyle Plush case as an example of implicit bias. He said when the 911 call center received that fateful call from Kyle, they believed it was an elderly woman.

Dispatchers thought they understood, Cranley said, and with good intentions, passed it on to officers which narrowed the field of response. He said this is an example of non-racial implicit bias, which can affect anyone.

“We don’t want the people who come to rescue us, whether it be police officers or firefighters or whoever, to make prejudicial assumptions because it could hurt the chances of us surviving.” Cranley said.

The bias training will be required of officers training to join the force. Cranley said he also plans to work with the department to begin scheduling the training for current officers.

Police Chief Eliot Isaac also spoke on the matter of the ‘n-word’ saying he had personal experience with it.

“Personally, I know the sting of that word,” Isaac said. He said it won’t be tolerated and it has no place in the police department or city covernement.

Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman has called a special session of the Law and Public Safety Committee for Jan. 11. Both the revised policy for punishment of officers and city employees as well as bias training will be addressed.

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