Cincinnati mayor pushes for bias training after two officers use racial slurs during calls

By Erin Donaghue

/ CBS News

Cincinnati cops caught using racial slurs

The Cincinnati mayor said he will introduce legislation requiring mandatory bias sensitivity training following the release of body camera footage showing officers using a racial slur during two separate police calls last year. The new training would be required for all all city employees, including police officers, and would cover both explicit and implicit bias, Mayor John Cranley announced Friday.

"We need to set a clear moral tone as to what's right and wrong, and using the N-word is wrong," Cranley said during a press conference Friday. "It's racist, and we won't stand for it."

Cranley said that "in light of recent events, we need a refresher on that."

Cincinnati police on New Year's Eve released bodycam video from the two incidents. The latest, recorded Dec. 22, shows officer Dennis Barnette, who is white, using the slur while attempting to arrest a black woman during a confrontation at a Roselawn nightclub. In the video, the woman can be seen yelling that someone hit her inside the club. The officer tells her to be quiet, and the confrontation escalates. A scuffle ensues and the camera is knocked to the ground. Police later said the woman pushed the officer.

Barnette is heard saying, "That n****r slapped me in the face!" The woman responds, "What the f*** did you just say?"

The Cincinnati NAACP said it was investigating the matter and has called for Barnette to resign or be terminated.

"The word used is hateful, and coming from someone with the authority to use deadly force, is dangerous to those whom he is sworn to serve and protect," the group said in a statement. "Officer Barnette's actions disgraced not only him but the department and city that employ him."

In a separate Sept. 26 incident, officer Donte Hill is heard using the same racial slur as he responds to a domestic call. Hill encountered a group of intoxicated people and used a Taser on a man who was fighting with someone else, reports CBS affiliate WKRC. Hill is heard on body camera video saying, "This is f****** stupid. I told you to f*** walk off, didn't I? That f****** alcohol got you n*****s acting stupid."

Barnette had his police powers suspended in the wake of the Dec. 22 incident. Cincinnati police chief Eliot Isaac initially gave Hill, who is African-American, a reprimand. However, Hill was also placed on desk duty last week after Isaac wrote in a memo to City Manager Patrick Duhaney that Hill's behavior was as egregious as Barnette's, WKRC reports.

Under a revised city non-discrimination policy enacted in October, use of the racial slur by a city employee is punishable by 40 hours of suspension without pay, Duhaney said Friday. The employee would also be required to undergo re-training and would be eligible for termination upon a second offense.

Cincinnati police are conducting an internal investigation of the incidents involving both Barnette and Hill. Isaac said Friday that the results of the investigation are expected shortly. Both officers would be subject to the 40-hour suspension and re-training if the allegations that they violated city policy are sustained, Isaac said. The officers would have the right to appeal.

"As the leader of this organization, I apologize that that word was ever used," Isaac said. "I know the significance of it — I've felt that sting both personally and professionally. I take it personally. It won't be tolerated."

Off-duty Ohio cop tases 11-year-old girl at grocery store

Isaac said Friday he supports the efforts of the mayor and city manager to implement bias sensitivity training for all city employees. Cranley says he'll introduce the legislation next week to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee.

The department was already under scrutiny after officer Kevin Brown tased an 11-year-old black girl suspected of shoplifting from a Cincinnati grocery store in August after she tried to run away. Brown, who was working off-duty security detail at the store, is heard on bodycam video telling the child, "You know what, sweetheart, this is why there's no grocery stores in the black community, because of all this going on."

The department reportedly determined that Brown, who is also African American, violated four department policies, including making prejudiced comments and not warning the girl he was going to use the stun gun. He was handed down a punishment that included a seven-day suspension from duty and a two-month suspension from working outside police-related details, City Beat reported.

Cincinnati police union president Dan Hils defended Brown's statement to the girl, WKRC reported.

"This was nothing more than an African-American police officer talking to the girl in a fatherly way," Hils said.

It marked the second time Brown has been accused of making inappropriate comments while on duty, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, which said he was previously written up for using a homophobic slur in reference to a domestic violence victim.

First published on January 4, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Erin Donaghue

Erin Donaghue covers crime for CBSNews.com's Crimesider.

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