Attorney General John Ashcroft Prepared Remarks
(NOTE: The Attorney General Often Deviates from Prepared Remarks)
Friday, April 12, 2002
ATTY GEN. ASHCROFT: Good morning.
Good morning. It is a privilege to join Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken, Vice Mayor Alicia Reece and other members of the Cincinnati City Council, Cincinnati City Manager Valerie Lemmie, Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher, Fraternal Order of Police National President Steve Young, Fraternal Order of Police Cincinnati President Roger Webster, and Rev. Damon Lynch of the New Prospect Baptist Church on this historic occasion.
I am grateful for the opportunity to announce this unprecedented agreement between the Justice Department and the City of Cincinnati that improves law enforcement and helps prevent the kind of tragic deaths of citizens and police officers that have caused so much pain in Cincinnati over the past several years.
This is truly an historic day, not just for the City of Cincinnati, but for all law enforcement in America. We all remember the images broadcast in the national media one year ago. Those images prompted me on April 13, 2001, to direct the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division to review the practices, procedures and training of the Cincinnati Police Department and to advise me on steps we could take to help improve law enforcement services in Cincinnati. I reviewed their initial recommendation, and on May 7th of last year, I directed the Civil Rights Division to work with the City, the Police Department and Cincinnati community leaders to determine how best to improve policing practices in Cincinnati.
My direction to the Civil Rights Division emphasized that we should focus on assisting the City to improve policing and to rebuild trust among the citizens of Cincinnati. Our priority is to fix the problem, not fix the blame. Our mission was to identify areas of opportunity for immediate reform and remediation. In one year's time Cincinnati has been transformed from a city of division to a city of reconciliation.
Today's agreement implements new policies covering when and how police officers should use force, when and how they engage in foot pursuits, and how they deal with persons who are mentally ill. Under this agreement, the men and women of the Cincinnati Police Department will receive enhanced training and will be held to a higher level of accountability.
This agreement also improves the procedures for investigations of uses of force and complaints of misconduct. Rather than protracted, contested and costly litigation, this agreement represents the best opportunity for the City of Cincinnati, its residents, and its Police Department to move forward together.
Under the leadership of Cincinnati Police Chief Tom Streicher, members of the Police Department's command staff have stressed to our investigative team that their goal is to continuously improve the quality of police services provided to the community. That is the unifying goal shared by all of us here today; it is the objective of this agreement.
We applaud Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken and other civic and community leaders here for cooperating fully with the investigation. We further commend the City and the Police Department for voluntarily implementing, as early as late summer of last year, significant reforms reflected in this agreement. We are convinced that if the implementation of this agreement proceeds in the same cooperative manner as did the investigation and the early reforms, it will succeed in yielding lasting benefits for the citizens of Cincinnati.
Under the leadership of Fraternal Order of Police National President Steve Young and Cincinnati FOP President Roger Webster, the Fraternal Order of Police rank and file have stressed their desire to improve policing services in Cincinnati. They, perhaps more than others, understand that trust is necessary for any police department to protect citizens effectively, and throughout this investigation, they have focused on ways to rebuild that trust among the citizens of this City. Indeed, the presence of Steve Young with us today demonstrates the commitment of the FOP to work with us not just here but across the nation.
Civic organizations and community groups in Cincinnati have been helpful to our investigation. Our process here included broad community involvement. In particular, the Cincinnati Black United Front and the Ohio Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union provided valuable contributions to our efforts. I am honored that Rev. Damon Lynch of the Cincinnati Black United Front is joining us today to express his support for this resolution. I'm also pleased to welcome Scott Greenwood, attorney for the ACLU, who last week stated: "For the first time, the African-American community and the police will be able to partner in ways that help everybody. " I am gratified by the breadth of support for today's agreements and hope the spirit of cooperation and reconciliation that led to these agreements can be replicated elsewhere. It is our hope that jurisdictions will choose to follow the model that has been established here in Cincinnati, and that the success of today will be followed by similar successes in other cities.
Finally, I would like to thank and congratulate the City of Cincinnati and the men and women of the Cincinnati Police Department for beginning reforms so promptly. I also want to commend the Fraternal Order of Police, the Black United Front and the American Civil Liberties Union for reaching agreements to institutionalize reforms that will improve the security and safety of the city of Cincinnati.
One year ago, Cincinnati was a city of strife. Today, Cincinnati has shown itself a model of reform and an example of the success that can be achieved when a community comes together in the pursuit of a common goal.