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CPD’s race, sex-based hiring practices are unconstitutional, must stop, judge rules

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 1:56 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2021 at 3:41 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - The city of Cincinnati’s police race-based and sex-based hiring and promotional goals are unconstitutional and must be removed from a 40-year-old consent decree that requires a certain percentage of minorities and women, a federal judge ruled.

The city and Cincinnati Police Department should confer with the U.S. Department of Justice and submit any proposed changes to the 1981 decree within 90 days, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott wrote in her order.

Dlott sided with federal officials in her decision. The Department of Justice got involved and requested the city’s police hiring practices be changed after a white officer sued last year when he was passed over for a promotion.

Erik Kohler scored eighth on the sergeant promotion test, but a Black officer who scored 12th got the promotion. His lawsuit says the consent decree that was meant to diversify the department is now discriminating against white officers.

The decree states that 34% of all new hires must be Black, and 23% of all new hires must be women. Furthermore, for promotion to sergeant, Blacks and women must comprise at least 25% of all such promotions.

“The Mayor and the City Administration have known for years that hiring and promoting officers based on their race and/or gender is unconstitutional and illegal,” said Kohler’s attorney, Zach Gottesman.

“Nonetheless, the City has continued to enforce these unconstitutional and illegal racially discriminatory policies with cynical impunity. With this ruling, that corrupt practice has finally been stopped.

“Judge Dlott’s ruling will bring a welcome change to the Cincinnati Police Department and allow officers to be hired and promoted based on merit and the content of their character, not the color of their skin. This change would have been impossible to bring about without the few brave officers willing to stand up to the City and challenge these illegal policies despite the threats, reprisals and retaliation that came with challenging the status quo. They should be commended and it is an honor to represent them.”

Kohler’s lawsuit seeks class-action status for him and all other officers in similar situations at CPD.

If that is granted, sometime in the next six months, that could overturn many other cases where officers were discriminated against based on their race and sex, said his other attorney, Chris Wiest.

“The city of Cincinnati police department is a very diverse police department. I don’t believe we got there because of quotas,” said Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dan Hils. “Minorities have proven over and over again that they don’t need quotas to be competitive.”

Police Chief Eliot Isaac said while it is disappointing how things turned out, the department will look for other ways to diversify the workforce.

“It is disappointing to see this go away,” Chief Isaac explained. “I recognized its benefits over the years. We will continue to look towards other avenues to create a diverse workforce that is reflective of the community we serve.”

FOX19 NOW is seeking comment from other parties and will continue to update this story.

Earlier this week, the Cincinnati Police Department announced an initiative to have 30% of its officers be women by 2030. Right now, about 23% of officers are women, CPD said in a tweet.

Mayor John Cranley and Chief Isaac wrote a letter to President Joe Biden earlier this year defending the city’s hiring practices. It states in part:

“In 1980s, after decades of exclusion, the City and the DOJ entered into a consent decree that greatly increased the numbers of African-Americans and women within our department. As the current police chief, I can say that my own career benefitted from the consent decree. Without it, I would not be chief.”

They requested a meeting with the president “ASAP to discuss.”

“We believe we should have an opportunity to discuss with you how the actions of your DOJ could set back decades of progress in minority inclusion in the Cincinnati Police Department.”

Shortly after, Pamela S. Karlan, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, wrote them a letter saying the DOJ agreed to meet with them.

“The Department welcomes the opportunity to meet with both of you, with your counsel present, to discuss the concerns referenced in your letter to President Biden and the future of the consent decree. We believe that it would be most productive for both the City and the United States to proceed that way so that we have a clear and accurate understanding of each other’s legal positions in these cases.”

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