Officers are 'close to walking out' as another D5 cop is diagnosed with cancer, FOP leaders says

Former District 5 officer speaks about cancer
Published: Sep. 18, 2017 at 2:43 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 27, 2017 at 5:06 AM EDT
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Cops keep list on the D5 wall of coworkers who were diagnosed with cancer. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer...
Cops keep list on the D5 wall of coworkers who were diagnosed with cancer. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)

CLIFTON, OH (FOX19) - Another District 5 police officer has been diagnosed with cancer, the latest in a long string of current and past officers who have fallen ill, according to the police union president.

Sgt. Dan Hils said he is holding a press conference in front of District 5 headquarters on Ludlow Avenue at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"Cancer again has struck another person in District 5," Hils said Monday. "Officers are so upset about this they are close to walking out."

Hils said he was "a little dumbfounded" by the news, expressing frustration that workers were still in the District 5 building despite plans to temporarily move some of them by Aug. 18.

"This was supposed to be done ten times over," Hils said.

About 34 District 5 detectives and other non-patrol employees were scheduled to move out of the building, city records show.

The relocation plan was announced earlier this year, after a FOX19 NOW investigation into conditions and health concerns at District 5.

The police union president exclusively invited our cameras in for a top-to-bottom tour of the building in November.

Sgt. Hils pointed out issues including mold, spiders, a bed bug infestation, mice, a leaky roof and cramped quarters.

At least 30 past and present District 5 officers have been diagnosed with cancer, including several who have died, according to Hils. That includes six under the age of 60 who died in 2015 and 2016 alone, he said.

No one's cancer has been directly linked to the building, but Hils said those figures don't seem right.

[FOX19 NOW Investigates: Cincinnati Police District 5]

The widow of a Cincinnati police specialist who worked at District 5 headquarters even filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging conditions at the building caused her husband's cancer and death.

Marc Mezibov, the lawyer for the CPD widow, has said it's not clear yet what's making past and present District 5 officers sick. But he agrees with Hils it's clear there is a problem.

"The number of people who work or who have worked at District 5 getting cancer is disappropriate with the cancer rates in the area," Mezibov said in an interview earlier this year.

Nationally, one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer in their lifetime, according to data from the U.S. National Cancer Institute. One in four men will be diagnosed with cancers they have a risk of dying from; one in five women will.

In January, City Manager Harry Black recommended the city close District 5 after the FOX19 NOW investigation.

City officials repeatedly have insisted the current District 5 building has no environmental concerns and is no longer ideal due to lack of space. Testing on the building at Hils' request late last year turned up no major air quality issues.

District 5 covers Clifton, University Heights, Fairview/Clifton Heights, College Hill, Camp Washington, Mt. Airy, Northside, Spring Grove Village and Winton Hills. It also includes the University of Cincinnati.

Some District 5 officers might temporarily move into an old bank building in Camp Washington after initial plans to relocate them into the other police facility were scrapped over the summer.

City officials are in lease negotiations now, according to Hils.

The employees were headed to the Youth Services Section building on Stock Street in neighboring Camp Washington, according to a memo written back in May by Black to City Council.

To make room for the District 5 workers, Youth Services officers were supposed to relocate Aug. 14 into the old District 3 police station on Warsaw Avenue in East Price Hill, he wrote.

But that was nixed after concerns emerged over moving Youth Services out of Camp Washington.

Youth Services officers stayed put, remaining in a central location for the families they serve.

FOX19 NOW has repeatedly asked Cincinnati police and city officials for an update on plans to temporarily move District 5 officers. No specifics have been provided.

A city spokesman refers questions to the police department and did so again Monday.

A police spokeswoman insisted last month the move is not stalled.

"The move of District 5 officers is not on hold.  We are continuing to work on this through our internal processes," Tiffaney Hardy wrote FOX19 NOW in an email Wednesday.

FOX19 NOW asked Hardy to elaborate.

A few hours later she wrote in another email: "The housing status of our Youth Services Section and District (5) is being evaluated internally as it involves a number of facility options and impacts our overall service delivery. We are not at liberty to share those discussions at this time."

Hils said officials including Chief Eliot Isaac have worked over the past several weeks to secure another location, a former bank building on Colerain Avenue near Hopple Street.

Isaac on Monday released the following statement about District 5:

"The Cincinnati Police Department is aware of the additional concerns for our employees that work out of the District Five police station. The Police Department and other City Departments are in the process of accessing temporary locations on a leased basis and are working toward a "long term solution as well. We encourage the Fraternal Order of Police and District Five employees that have concerns to work with the administration to find solutions that will provide a safe environment for all of our employees to work in. Please understand that these concerns are a top priority and we are attempting to address this matter as expeditiously as possible in order to find a workable solution for all involved.

Last year, the police union turned to FOX19 NOW for help after receiving complaints from District 5 officers - and after police administrators tried unsuccessfully for years to secure funding from the city for a new facility.

Council most recently rejected budgeting $17 million for a new headquarters in 2015.

For now, the city plans to completely renovate their now-vacant permit center on Central Avenue into a new District 5 headquarters.

It would cost $7 million to $10 million and open in 2019, city records show.

At 28,000-square feet, the permit center is nearly three times the size of the current District 5 building.

But Hils has said he doesn't think the permit center is the best location for a new District 5 headquarters, noting that it costs so much to renovate, the city might as well build a new facility designed for a police headquarters.

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