FOP votes no confidence in Prosecutor Deters, withdraws from Collaborative update

Published: Jul. 25, 2017 at 1:05 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2017 at 6:41 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati's rank and file no longer supports Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

Members of Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge No.69 passed a no-confidence vote in Deters at a meeting Monday night, the union announced Tuesday morning.

They also ordered their leader, Sgt. Dan Hils, to withdraw from participating in the city's ongoing "refresh" of the Collaborative Agreement, the cornerstone of police reforms following the 2001 riots.

"I think what people can take from this is that police officers should not be society's scapegoat or punching bag," Hils said.

Deters initially declined comment through a spokeswoman Tuesday and then issued a short statement by lunchtime.

"Despite the FOP vote, I remain committed to doing the best job I can do as the Hamilton County Prosecutor and I have full confidence in the Cincinnati Police Department."

The police union's no-confidence vote is historic and unprecedented, said FOX19 NOW Chief Legal Analyst Mike Allen, the county's former prosecutor.

"I've never heard of anything like this before," Allen said.

"The relationship between the FOP and the prosecutor's office has always been a good one and I'm sure it will be in the future, but I am sure there obviously will be fences that need to be mended.

"This is a bad situation because the working relationship between Cincinnati police officers and the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office has to be a good one."

"They work hand in hand together everyday. Their relationship has to be mended as soon as possible or it could turn adversarial and prosecutors and police officers have to be on the same page in order to ensure effective justice."

The vote was split with about half of the members abstaining, some 50 of an estimated 100 FOP members present, Hils said.

"This is the FOP sending a message that we're not happy with how this case was handled, the Tensing case but that relations ship has always been strong and I think it will remain strong," said Allen. "There just needs to be a little fence minding."

Of the members who did vote, about two-thirds passed the no-confidence in Deters, Hils said.

"There was a lot of fence sitting on that one," Hils said.

By comparison, the union's vote to eschew the Collaborative was "all but unanimous," he said.

A key member of the Collaborative and current "refresh" is civil rights attorney Al Gerhardstein, who represents the family of Samuel DuBose.

They recently called for Cincinnati police to investigate Sgt.Shannon Heine, who interviewed Tensing two days after he fatally shot DuBose at a traffic stop in 2015.

Hils  recently raised objections with the prosecutor's office when an assistant prosecutor criticized Heine after her testimony in Tensing's second trial.

Related story: Tensing prosecutor criticism of investigator 'offensive and dangerous'

On Friday, Cincinnati police officials released a report showing Heine was cleared by the department of wrongdoing, partly because prosecutors had met with her before the trial and had "full knowledge of these opinions," but opted to call her anyway."

Allen described the entire situation with Heine as "deplorable."

"When police officers, who put their lives on the line for us, now have to second guess their own sworn testimony on the witness stand sets a horrible precedent," he said.

"She testified truthfully to her opinion. She was asked a question on the witness stand and she gave an honest answer and to find herself facing possible discipline is absolutely inexcusable."

If this happens again to another officer, it could have chilling effect, he said.

"Police officers now have to second guess themselves on the street and this happening now could have them second guessing themselves on the witness stand," Allen said.

"They should be concerned with their testimony, about telling the truth, not worrying about whether their testimony is going to have them ultimately facing disciplinary action."

Gerhardstein wrote Hils a letter Tuesday requesting a meeting to "discuss the issues."

"We do not consider the complaints to be an "attack on Sgt Heine."  As we have discussed, we have two vehicles in this City to investigate complaints about officer conduct.

"One is Internal Affairs within the police department and the other is the Citizen Complaint Authority, independent of the police department.  On behalf of the DuBose family and CBUF we filed complaints in both places," Gerhardstein wrote.

"We are concerned that Sgt Heine did not share her personal view that the DuBose shooting was justified with the Prosecutor before testifying to that effect at the Tensing trial.  Her opinion undoubtedly impacted the jury in favor of Tensing.  The prosecutor has said publicly that he was "blindsided."  Sgt Heine claims she did tell her views to the prosecutor before the second trial.

"The internal investigation failed to include an interview with the prosecutor so we are left with finger pointing and an incomplete investigation.  The CCA investigation may clear that up.  We are simply using the process we have to investigate officer conduct and there is nothing wrong with that.

"The FOP has been a valued Collaborative partner for over 15 years.  The Collaborative Refresh is an opportunity for all the stakeholders to make sure our joint efforts to promote public safety are effective, fair and fully utilize problem solving.  This is a chance for everyone to have their opinions heard.

"As individual officers, the members will be implementing the existing policing strategies as well as any new ones developed through the refresh.

"This is not a time to step away from the table when your members may have great ideas that need to be shared.  I hope we can talk through any concerns you have soon. "

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