FOP demands all D5 officers move now, get cancer screenings

FOP demands all D5 officers move now, get cancer screenings
District 5 (FOX19 NOW/ Jennifer Baker)
Cancer rates among District 5 workers in December 2016 were displayed inside inside the police headquarters as some council members toured the building late last year. (Provided photo)
Cancer rates among District 5 workers in December 2016 were displayed inside inside the police headquarters as some council members toured the building late last year. (Provided photo)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Cincinnati's police union unanimously voted Monday night on two demands related to District 5 police headquarters on Ludlow Avenue in Clifton.

  • Move all officers out of the building immediately
  • All active and retired officers undergo free cancer screenings paid for by the city

"If the city fails to comply with this demand money has been set aside to have attorneys consulted in this matter," wrote Sgt. Dan Hils, FOP president, in a Facebook post.

Shortly after, Councilman Charlie Winburn called for Mayor John Cranley to declare District 5 a health emergency and shut it down within 72 hours.

Winburn also said he was open to a special session of council to "encourage" City Manager Harry Black to close it.

The vote and Winburn's proposal comes as some District 5 officers are set to move Tuesday into temporary work space at the police department's Spinney Field Training Complex in Lower Price Hill.

FOX19 NOW was first to tell you about concerns related to District 5 in a series of investigative reports that began in November 2016 when Hils exclusively took our cameras inside the building to expose what he said were "shameful" conditions inside.

Police commanders past and present have unsuccessfully tried for years to convince council members to spend money on a new building.

As our cameras rolled, Hils pointed out concerns about mold, asbestos, spiders, a bed bug infestation, mice, a leaky roof and cramped quarters.

Many of those issues echoed ones the current District 5 commander, Captain Bridget Bardua, outlined in a lengthy 2015 City Hall presentation that included photos.

After our tour, the police union asked the city to conduct air quality tests that came back, according to Black, giving the building a "clean bill of health."

Still, concerns persist, especially over a pattern of at least 30 past and present District 5 officers who have been diagnosed with cancer, including several who have died.

Hils said our reporting prompted officers with health concerns and those who have been touched by cancer to come to him and share their stories.

Six under the age of 60 who died in 2015 and 2016 concern him in particular, he has said. Five of them spent most of their shifts in the building.

Hils said he thinks there could be a link between the building and cancer, though there is no known tie between the two.

No one's cancer has been linked to the building, and the city says air quality tests run late last year at the FOP request found no problems.

But after our series of investigative reports, Black announced earlier this year he recommended City Council open a new District 5 headquarters in the city's vacant permit center on Central Parkway after it was renovated at a cost of $7 million to $10 million.

He later said he worked out an informal agreement with the FOP to move about 35 officers and other staff members who work in the building full time over the summer into another police facility until the new headquarters is renovated and ready in 2019.

That would leave about 90 officers still working at District 5 until the new building opened.

But the 35 officers never moved over the summer. Plans for the temporary relocation fell through.

A city spokesman referred all questions about the matter to police representatives over the summer, who repeatedly were unable to provide further details or say when and where the 35 officers would be moved.

Then, in late September, Hils said yet another current District 5 officer was diagnosed with cancer.

That further shook the already upset staff in the building. Hils held a press conference in front of District 5 and called on the city and Cranley to move the officers out by Christmas.

Later that day, Winburn prepared a motion for City Council to declare an emergency and shut the building down within 30 days.

The next day, as Winburn and other Council Members questioned the city manager and Police Chief Eliot Isaac about the situation in a public meeting, Isaac abruptly announced he would move the 35 officers out of District 5 by the end of October even if he had to put them in his own office.

Later that week, Isaac wrote in a memo to Black that the officers would be temporarily relocated to Spinney Field - but not for long. That move was just a temporary fix until the city could negotiate a lease to put them in a former bank building in Camp Washington.

But the approximate 90 other personnel - mostly patrol officers -were upset to be left behind.

Paula McGuire applauded the FOP members for standing up and speaking out.

Her husband, former District 5 Police Specialist Robert McGuire, 51, died from complications of cancer Jan. 15, 2015.

It was the same day one of his former co-workers, District 5 Specialist Stephanie Bradford, 50, passed away from Stage 4 appendix cancer.

Paula McGuire sued the city in February, alleging "toxic and hazardous substances" at the building caused her husband's cancer. He worked at District 5 until 2006, when he was transferred to District 3. He beat colon cancer after a 2010 diagnosis, but his 2012 lung cancer wasn't as forgiving.

"My continuous prayer is for all the District 5 staff to move out. It is crucial all past and present officers get screened for cancer now," McGuire said Tuesday.

"How many more lives have to be impacted? Where in corporate America would workers remain in a building after more than 30 of their current and former colleagues were diagnosed with cancer?"

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