Prosecutor reviews late night call from city manager to FOP leader who alleges harassment

Phone call between Black and Hils
Published: Nov. 8, 2017 at 9:28 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 10, 2017 at 10:26 AM EST
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Cincinnati Police Sgt. Dan Hils at the FOP Hall in 2016 (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)
Cincinnati Police Sgt. Dan Hils at the FOP Hall in 2016 (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Baker)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office is reviewing a taped phone call between Cincinnati police union president and city manager to see if the city manager broke the law, a prosecutor's spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

FOP President Sgt. Dan Hils alleged Wednesday City Manager Harry Black tried to intimidate and harass him in an unwelcome, 12-minute long late night phone call Oct. 27.

His said the city's top administrator threatened to have him investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) because he doesn't like the way he advocates for police officers.

"He's a bully and we don't want police officers that are bullies," Hils said. "But we don't want people in authority positions to be bullies either."

He said Black was upset because he defended officers in a suspect's recent arrest and objected to the city's Citizen Complaint Authority holding a hearing and compelling the officers to testify before the criminal case was settled in court because the suspect filed a racial profiling and excessive force complaint.

The CCA is a police oversight board that was part of the city's Collaborative Agreement in the wake of the 2001 riots.  The city is currently updating or "refreshing" the agreement.

Related story: Prosecutor granted court order to delay police oversight board hearing

Hils said Black called his cell phone at 11:42 p.m. "out of the blue" while he was staying with a friend in Loveland and about to go to sleep.

He said he picked up his phone at such a late hour when he saw Black's number come up because the city manager "is my ultimate supervisor. He can hire me and fire me."

The two men have a history of disputes. Hils said they have not talked on the phone in a year to 18 months, so he taped the call.

"You are trying to obstruct the CCA and I cannot honestly sit down at the table with the refresh with you all doing what you are doing right now. And I will let the world know this, that you guys are intentionally obstructing the CCA process," Black says on a recording of the call that Hils released to FOX19 NOW.

"I had no intention of obstructing anything. I just, uh, want to make sure that a criminal case -" Hils says.

Black interrupts: "Dan, Dan, Dan , Dan, please. Don't bull--- me OK? I know that you are behind it."

"No, am I behind- "Hils starts to say.

Black interrupts: "If I walk away from this as a city manager, do you know what it will do to the (police) department?"

Hils responds: "I don't even know why we are talking about walking away from the CCA. I want to make sure that a criminal case doesn't get-"

Black interrupts: "No, you are interfering with the CCA's work. But you're doing it through other people."

Hils says: "Again, I am not sure. There is a criminal case that I am concerned about. That is all I am doing-"

Black interrupts: "Dan, Dan, Dan, Dan. Look. All the bull---- is out. You are involved with (Assistant Police Chief Dave) Bailey obstructing the CCA. OK? And what I am saying to you is if you guys don't stop, I as the city manager will walk away from the refresh and I will let the entire world know why I'm doing it. I'm doing it because of you."

Later in the call, Black says to Hils: "I'm just giving you this call as a heads up. This could be played in a variety of ways. OK? You know what you are doing. You know what you are doing."

Hils responds: "Again,I know what I am doing. I'm trying to protect a particular criminal case where police officers were assaulted."

Black: "Again, again, Dan, you are participating in an obstruction of the CCA process. And if I have to let the world know that, I will. I'm just letting you know."

Hils: "Well, you know, Mr. Black, this is a unique thing, getting called late in the evening with you more or less threatening me -"

"I'm not threatening you, Dan," Black says, raising his voice according to the recording. "See, that- again, I'm not threatening you. What I am trying to say to you is we're trying to do a process....You know what I am going to do? Dan, ultimately if this doesn't change I am going to personally engage the U.S. Department of Justice on this (police) department -"

Hils: "You're going to engage the U.S. Department of Justice?"

Black: "And ask them to come back because of you."

Hils: "Because of me you are going to ask the DOJ to come back?

Black: "Yes."

Hils: "And do what?"

Black: "To investigate the department because of you."

Hils: "Because of one little union leader you are going to ask the DOJ to come back?

Black: "If I have to."

Hils: "All right."

Black: "If I have to."

Hils: "Mr. Black I think you and should talk about this another time, but I-"

Black: "We can do that. Look, it  doesn't really matter. Because you and I, we've already talked. Dan, what I'm saying to you: You can twist it any way you want to twist it. What I am saying to you is I am not going to deal with this."

Hils said he waited until the elections were over to file a police report and turn the tape over to authorities: "I didn't want to unfairly affect any election."

The FOP endorsed Mayor John Cranley against opponent Councilwoman Yvette Simpson.

Hils went to the Loveland Police Department to file a report on the incident between 8 and 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, said Loveland Police Chief Sean Rahe.

The chief said he listened to the tape but was not sure a crime was committed. He also had jurisdictional concerns. Hils lives and works in Cincinnati but answered his phone in Loveland.

The chief said he referred the incident to the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office after speaking to Hils.

"At the end of that conversation, we weren't sure we had any jurisdiction or if a crime had even occurred," Rahe said. "So we passed that information along to the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office."

The prosecutor's office is reviewing information related to the case, an agency spokesman confirmed.

Hils said he hopes some law enforcement agency somewhere takes his police report and investigates what appears to be to him a clear crime of telephone harassment.

Reached for comment, Black issued a statement through a city spokesman:

"Late on Friday October 27th, upon learning that the FOP was planning to intervene (which they successfully did on the following Monday the 30th) to prevent the Citizen Complaint Authority (CCA) from conducting scheduled interviews with Cincinnati Police Department officers about an incident and subsequent citizen complaint occurring August 8, I called Dan Hils on the phone.

"I made the call because I was concerned as such an action was without precedent and outside the normal administrative process. Additionally, I was concerned because of the potential to unravel a critical tenant of the Collaborative Agreement that the City, FOP and the community entered into years ago.

'"I asked Mr. Hils to consider the implications of the actions he was considering. He indicated he would not change course at which time I indicated I may have to elevate the matter to the next level, which in this case would involve bringing in external agencies.

"I was unaware the call was being recorded. I was and remain passionate about the topics discussed especially as it pertains to the importance of maintaining civilian oversight of our police force.

"I also want to clarify that my concerns are in no way critical of any particular police officers as I am unfamiliar with the details of this particular case. There are legal and administrative processes in place to address those questions, which is exactly what we are attempting to protect the integrity of.

"The men and women of our police force represent the best in class in terms of policing around the nation."

Mayor John Cranley and his spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.

Hils said it would be difficult now for him to work with Black.

"It already was, I believe, a strained relationship, but now I would be very uncomfortable with him," he said. "I personally wonder whether or not my activities with District 5 have anything to do with his displeasure with me."

Hils enraged Black when he exclusively invited FOX19 NOW Digital Producer Jennifer Baker and our cameras into District 5 police headquarters a year ago this month for a top-to-bottom tour to expose what he said were "shameful" conditions and health conditions.

The police union turned to us for help after police commanders unsuccessfully tried for years to convince council members to spend money on a new building.

FOX19 NOW Investigates Cincinnati Police District 5 police headquarters

Since then, several past and present officers have stepped forward based on our reporting to share their stories of cancer with Hils.  Dozens have been diagnosed, Hils says, including six under the age of 60 who died in 2015 and 2016 that trouble him. The widow of one of them sued the city in February, alleging hazardous conditions inside the building caused the cancer that killed her husband.

He has said he thinks there is a link between cancer and the building, though none is known and air quality tests the city had done inside last year at Hils' reqest gave the facility, according to Black, a "clean bill of health."

The city closed the public lobby late last month and moved 35 investigators and others who work the majority of their shift in the building to another police facility.

About 90 patrol officers remain stationed at District 5. The police chief found another building for the city to possibly rent for them to work out of until a new police station is ready in 2019. Lease negotiations are underway now.

The mayor and chief have said they want all the officers out of the District 5 building by year's end.

On Wednesday, a federal agency confirmed they have begun a cancer cluster study at 60-year-old building.

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