CINCINNATI, OH - Two Cincinnati police officers who used the N-word against black citizens face seven-day suspensions, according to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Officers Dennis Barnette and Donte Hill used the N-word in separate incidents. Both instances were captured on body-worn cameras.
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac approved the suspensions Friday. He wrote to City Manager Patrick Duhaney that the decisions awaited the City's final approval.
Hill used the slur and profane language while responding to a fight last September at a Westwood residence. Barnette used it to refer to a black woman as he arrested her in December outside the Brownstone Cafe in Cincinnati's Roselawn neighborhood.
Barnette is white. Hill is black.
Hill argued he used a variation of the N-word and that his usage was not derogatory, according to internal investigation documents obtained by The Enquirer. Hill's contention was overruled by superiors.
Barnette told investigators he had no memory of calling a black woman the N-word.
But body-worn camera captured him saying it, according to an internal investigation.
Barnette said the slur as he was restraining a woman who'd been involved in an altercation with a man. The man and woman had earlier been ejected from a nightclub.
Witnesses on scene expressed shock by Barnette's utterance and also concern by the fact that Barnette was alone with the woman.
That Barnette was upset and restraining a black woman “suggests Officer Barnette’s use of the word was to demean another citizen because of her race,” wrote Capt. Aaron Jones, who served as the hearing officer, in a memo to Isaac.
The woman had earlier struck Barnette's face with her hand, the investigation concluded.
During his disciplinary hearing, Barnette was asked why he said the word. He pointed to being struck and to the fact that he wasn't well rested due to a remodeling project in his kitchen while also acknowledging those weren't excuses for using the slur.
"The word is not in my vocabulary" and he considers it offensive, Barnette said.
Sgt. Dan Hils, the police union president, defended Barnette during the hearing, saying he didn't believe Barnette consciously decided to use the word.
Jones responded that "if Officer Barnette did not know why he said it, how would he be able to control himself in the future?" Jones wrote.
"Sgt. Hils responded, 'I don't know,'" Jones added.
Hill initially faced a lesser punishment, but his case was wrongly categorized, city officials said.
A new investigation considered Hill's remarks as he was making an arrest.
Hill restrained one of two men who had fought one another. At one point, Hill says: "That goddamn alcohol got you (N-word) out here acting stupid!"
Body-camera footage was released from the incident.
In response to Hill's contention that he had used a variation of the N-word in a non-derogatory way, Capt. Douglas Wiesman, the hearing officer, wrote that any use of the N-word is unacceptable by a Cincinnati Police Department employee.
Hill is also captured on body-worn camera directing the F-word and other profanity at civilians, according to internal investigation documents.
But Wiesman wrote the City and Police Department erred by originally finding Hill in violation of a rule against profanity when he actually violated a rule against prejudicial expression concerning race, religion, gender or other categories.
In October, Hill was punished by written reprimand, and Wiesman wrote it would be unfair to find another rule violation "for the exact same violation he has already been disciplined for."
Nonetheless, Isaac added the seven-day suspension.
Isaac, in an email to City Manager Patrick Duhaney, wrote any similar conduct in the future by either of the two officers would result in a recommendation for termination.