NAACP, others ask chief to hold FOP leader 'accountable,' he apologizes for saying 'urban ghetto'

Published: Dec. 4, 2017 at 6:41 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 5, 2017 at 7:48 AM EST
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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - A group of local civil rights organizations including the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP and the Sentinel Police Association accuse the leader of the union that represents Cincinnati police of "recklessness" and called on Chief Eliot Isaac to hold him accountable for "abuse and misuse" of his position.

Following their joint statement Sunday night, Sgt. Dan Hils conceded in a statement Monday he used the term "urban ghetto" when he recently addressed rank and file members during a District 4 roll call and apologized.

This is the latest in what has become an increasingly contentious relationship between the FOP, Hils, the Sentinels and some other civil rights groups.

On Sunday night, Cincinnati NAACP, Sentinels Police Association, Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio, Greater Cincinnati Chapter of the National Action Network (NAN) released a lengthy statement criticizing Hils after Hils went to the roll call in response to concerns from officers.

The concerns related to allegations a third shift supervisor, Lt. Danita Pettis, behavior during roll call earlier that month.

After Hils went to roll call, Pettis filed an internal complaint Tuesday against Hils, according to our media partner, the Cincinnati Enquirer.

We have reached out to Cincinnati police spokesman Lt. Steve Saunders, who has not responded.

We also attempted to talk to Sentinel President Officer Eddie Hawkins and Lt. Pettis Monday, but they were not available.

In her complaint and an accompanying witness statement, Pettis alleged Hils undermined her authority by speaking to the third-shift roll call that she supervises on her night off Nov. 26.

She wrote in a complaint to Isaac that Hils allegedly bragged about "kicking her a--" when arresting her 25 years ago when she was a civilian and instructed officers how to file a joint complaint against her, according to the Enquirer.

"FOP President Dan Hils must be held accountable for making reckless comments, as reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer article 'A top black female cop's complaint against union chief Dan Hils is investigated (12/1/17),'" reads the joint statement from the NAACP, Sentinels and others.

"The comments attributed to Hils referring to policing in District 4 in Avondale, are disparaging and insensitive. His statement, "You already have it tough in an urban ghetto environment" implies that the practice of policing is not based on policies and procedures but rather perceived ethnic or socioeconomics of the community and affirms that he is out of touch with the current policing model, and runs counter to Bias Free, Community Problem Oriented Policing, as a result of the historic Collaborative Agreement.

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"The other question raised by Hils in the article was the suggested use of Body Worn cameras to record "Roll Call"? We do not believe this is consistent with the established policy for body worn cameras across the police force. Additionally, when referencing Lt. Danita Pettis at roll call, Hils said, "I kicked her a--" on an arrest 25 years ago, essentially bragging about use of force.

"We do not live in a police state. As FOP President, Hils swore an oath to represent all FOP members. He must not be permitted to come to the workplace and undermine the leadership of a superior officer. Hils actions are deplorable and display his contempt towards a senior ranked Cincinnati Police Department officer, which seem personal and inflammatory. Hils is unhappy that he is subordinate to Lt. Pettis. It further demonstrates a lack of respect for the leadership of the CPD and this City.

"Cincinnati Police Chief Isaac must hold Hils accountable, by taking appropriate corrective action. Hils statements are sure to affect the morale within the Cincinnati Police Department by sowing seeds of divisiveness and cultivating a hostile work environment, which could potentially place the public and officers at risk.

Dan Hils cannot continue his recklessness with impunity, there needs to be accountability. His abuse and misuse of the platform and position as FOP President is unacceptable."

As union president, Hils represents 1,000 officers and 1,700 retirees.

On Friday, Hils posed this response after the Enquirer contacted him for comment about the internal investigation into his roll call visit.

"Here we go! It's going to get interesting!

"You all remember James Pilcher at the Enquirer and his inaccurate hit piece on police involved shootings? Do you remember my strong response to his phony news, as I lit a newspaper afire?

"James just called me and asked about a roll call that I attended and an Internal Investigation in which I am the target reference that roll call. I won't talk to James, but I am not afraid to talk about my actions. I will leave out names of officers involved to protect them.

"I was asked to attend a roll call in one of our five Districts Sunday night by an officer. There several officers met me and complained about the treatment from a certain supervisor. Their accounts were disappointing if not disturbing. It should not matter, but I know that it does currently, so I will tell that the officers were both white and black and both senior officers and junior officers. All had complaints about this supervisor. Some had been demeaned and humiliated in front of co-workers.

"Here is where I must try to walk a fine line. As their representative, I cannot bring a complaint on a fellow union member, but I can certainly give advice to officers about EEO complaints and notifying their chain of command of possible mistreatment.

"So, from this there is an investigation on me? A James Pilcher Enquire news story on me? It is a little rare that an Internal Affairs investigation is launched on the elected union representative while engaged in his or her duties, but investigating apparently they are.

"I figure James Pilcher has an axe to grind and I highly doubt his story will be accurate. I can say that after seeing his reporting on officer involved shootings. Who else out there could have it out for me right now, hmm?

"Like I said, here we go! It's going to get interesting!"

On Monday, when asked to comment on the internal investigation and in light of the statement issued by the civil rights groups, Hils posed another statement on Facebook:

"In light of the recent discussion with District Four personnel, I would like to clarify my part of the discussion.

"I was invited to meet with a group of officers from Third Relief of District Four on Sunday, November 26th. A group of officers remained at District Four after roll call to discuss a command officer's treatment of her subordinates.

"A tape recording of the command officer's demeaning response to an officer's inquiry was played. The response was a question about the command officer's actions concerning an officer needs assistance / shots fired run.

"Hearing the content of the tape and the abusive treatment of subordinates it compelled me to share personal experience and knowledge of this command officer's recorded pattern of conduct and character, which leads to the statement that was misrepresented reference the arrest 25 years ago.

"As for the comment used about the neighborhoods in which these officers serve, I was emphasizing the complexity of their jobs and how being degraded and mistreated by your superiors makes the job of service more complicated. For my choice of grammar, using the term "urban ghetto" statement, I do sincerely apologize for my choice of words."

FOX19 NOW obtained a recording of Pettis during the Nov. 22 roll call that prompted the concern Hils said led to him going to roll call on Nov. 26.

According to the recording, Pettis and a female subordinate, Specialist Joy Ludgatis, disagree over the timing of when it was confirmed that a shots fired call was actually a call of an officer being shot at the evening of Nov.17, just before third shift roll call began.

During the Nov. 17 roll call, Pettis allegedly told officers to stay put instead of going out on the run, according to Hils.

At first, it was not clear if an officer was actually shot at, Pettis repeatedly points out during the recording we obtained.

Pettis raised her voice at Ludgatis as the recording proceeds and repeatedly reminds Ludgatis that she, not Ludgatis, is in charge.

"Really nothing against you either, but I"m going to tell you this: I'm the lieutenant of this relief, Joy. You don't question my decision making, you got that? Do you understand me, Specialist Ludgatis?

"Yes" she responded.

"Thank you," Pettis told her, according to the recording.

"You don't question my decision, you for darn sure don't question my decision making in front of some junior officers. You got a problem with something that I did, something that I said, be woman enough and officer enough to come knock on my door and holler at me."

Ludgatis attempts to speak.

"I didn't ask you any questions. You be quiet," Pettis says. "You be quiet right now because I am running this, not you. This is my relief. Not you. You work for me, not the other way around.

"And for someone - I'm just going to tell you how I feel about it - and for someone such as yourself who feels that everybody else should have ran out of here in an officer safety, you look really good saying that, a person who volunteer to sit on the desk every night. You don't cover nobody in your (unintelligible) first of all. ....I'm .... in the field covering people.....I'm first through the door, Reynolds is first through the door. What do you do?

At this point, Pettis is yelling:

"You sit there in the comfort of the office, in the comfort of the district and answer telephones every night and you are going to sit there and complain about who didn't go where? Why didn't you get up and run out of roll call? Why didn't you go?"

"Because you kept everybody in-" Ludgatis responded.

"Why-OK!  If you felt like that that, then why didn't you say to my face? Why didn't you say 'uh, Lt., can we respond on this run? I feel like we should be out in the field. No disrespect but can we respond on this incident?. Why didn't you be woman enough to say that in my face?"

"Because you would act just like you are now," Ludgatis responded.

Pettis: "I'm acting like I'm telling you, you need to realize your place and you need to get in it. You ain't running anything here, you ain't in command of nothing, you ain't taking no supervisory test therefore, I could care less, could give two craps about what you think.

"And when I want your opinion on my supervision, I'll give it to you. And make sure you turn the volume up on your cell phone cause everything I am saying I could give a crap less if you go down to the chief, to your good buddy (Assistant Chief Paul) Neudigate or whoever. I don't care.

"You got a lot of nerve to think that you are going to come in here and undermine my authority like that and you ain't came to me and said nothing. You don't run nothing here. i' not afraid to confront you and if you do it again, you might find yourself out of here a second time."

Pettis paused.

Then she said

"Anybody else got anything else to say? Or anybody else going to need to question my supervision?"

No one spoke.

"I'll take it as that's a no," Pettis said and then appears to speak again to Ludgatis: "So if you want, you can go ahead and do the hard job about holding down the desk while you are concerned about officer safety. Why don't you try coming out in the field sometime?"

Ludgatis told her: "I've been on 28 years, I did 27 years on the street, I'm not worried about-"

"And? And? And? And? And?" Pettis interrupted. "A person who never come out in the field and cover nobody. I don't have anything else. You are dismissed to the desk."

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