Leader of Cincinnati's black officers: Collaborative policing 'in danger'

Published: Jul. 26, 2017 at 11:35 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 27, 2017 at 3:23 AM EDT
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Collaborative policing in Cincinnati that has worked in the past to unite the community and officers who serve it is "in danger" after recent actions by the police union and its president, says the leader of a group of African-American officers.

Officer Eddie Hawkins, president of the Sentinel Police Association, released a statement Tuesday saying that he also has become troubled by actions of the union that represents Cincinnati police and its leader -  one he says ignores the "plight and feelings of the black officers he is supposed to serve."

FOP President Sgt. Dan Hils announced Tuesday morning union members passed a no-confidence vote in Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters and instructed Hils to withdraw from participating in an ongoing update to the city's historic Collaborative Agreement, the cornerstone of police reforms following the 2001 riots.

Hils also sparked controversy and received threats via social media over the weekend after posting a message to Black Lives Matter on the police union's Facebook page.

He posted it Saturday morning, hours before the group and others held a large protest on Fountain Square after Deters announced he would not seek a third murder trial against a white, former University of Cincinnati police officer who fatally shot a black motorist in a 2015 traffic stop.

Hils' listed the number of African Americans killed so far this year, noting that none died in police interventions. He also asked Black Lives Matter to support police trying to solve the slayings.

"I am disturbed by recent events involving the FOP. I reject Dan Hils' inappropriate post referring to black on black crime, which amounted to telling the black community that they cannot be upset about police involved shootings until every single homicide involving a black victim is resolved," Hawkins wrote.

FOX19 NOW reached out to Hils for a response Wednesday.

"The Sentinel Police Association is a proud organization," he said, "and I fully support their right to express their first Amendment right of freedom of speech."

Hils declined further comment on Hawkins' statement, which goes on to point out the police union's no-confidence vote in Deters came from mostly retired police who remain members yet do not represent active rank and file protecting and serving Cincinnati.

Hawkins also said that police are justified in use of force most of the time, but that isn't always the case. And when officers are not justified, they must be held accountable.

"While officers are held to a higher standard, we are not exempt from being brought to justice when we overstep our oath and attempt to escape the law," Hawkins wrote.

"That is what our community needs to see, the humanity in our authority,not seeing us act as though we are so different that the law cannot reach us. Without this mindset, we become bigots, and the community in turn has no tolerance for our presence and support....

"To tell black people that they must remain quiet, even if they feel a police involved shooting is unjustified, until Cincinnati Police solve all the cold case murders, is absurd. As black officers, we are caught between being blue and being black," Hawkins wrote in his statement.

"The fact is we are divided;not by race,but by right versus wrong, and what appears to be right for some is not necessarily right for others. Hils' comments ignores the plight and feelings of the black officers who he is supposed to serve."

Then, to "add insult to injury," Hawkins wrote, the FOP voted to withdraw from the Collaborative update - a decision he says was"made by a majority of members who are retired and no longer put their lives on the line daily.

"Any officer will tell you the importance of community-police relations as it relates to officer safety. Community-police relations also are important when we are seeking assistance from the community in solving the murders Hils' referred to," Hawkins wrote.

"But the FOP is willing to, as the phrase goes, 'take their ball and go home' because of a difference of opinion with a few people. When you are tasked with leading a group of individuals whose lives depend on your decisions, those decisions cannot be made rashly, capriciously, with malice or retaliation for comments you don't like.

"Collaborative policing has worked in Cincinnati and it is now in danger," Hawkins wrote. "All of us should be concerned - officers and citizens alike.

"As officers, we should not be perpetuating untruths about certain members of our society. Black on black crime is a myth, which myth officers should not be furthering," his statement reads.

"White people primarily commit crimes against other white people. Crime, especially violent crime, is driven by opportunity and proximity - a fact that is true for all races.

"The perpetuation of this myth is what makes society look at black people as if they are violent criminals, which often affects the manner in which black people are policed, regardless of their education or profession," Hawkins wrote.

"Even I am not immune. This is unhealthy, ill-informed rhetoric is dangerous.

"Trust, cooperation and communication is required from both the community and the police department," Hawkins wrote. "When we are successful in these areas the police have the ability to better perform and the community is better protected.

"The current finger-pointing is not driving us to resolution. Instead, it is pushing us further apart and backward. We need to all embrace and address improper and sometimes illegal policing prior to finding ourselves faced with another Tensing trial.

"We need to hold each other, including our judicial system, accountable when these unfortunate events occur. You are either for the people or against the people....this is everyone's responsibility, especially ours."

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