Cincinnati Post

Mediation could avoid lawsuit - New approach to race issue

By Craig Garrelson, March 15, 2001

Cincinnati could be the first city in the nation to avoid a prolonged legal battle over racial profiling by bringing in a mediator.

The plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit against the city police are suggesting a mediator as a way for Cincinnati to avoid a protracted, multi-million dollar court battle.

It may be the first time mediation has been sought as a solution without first reaching a settlement or a court decree as a result of litigation, said David A. Harris, a law professor at the University of Toledo who is writing a book about racial profiling.

"I think mediation is an idea worth exploring," Harris said. "Litigation is sometimes necessary, but it is a difficult and expensive process that almost always ends up polarizing people and making it difficult for the parties to come to a conclusion. Working together toward a solution, instead of a multi-year, multi-million dollar litigation, is just so much smarter."

In documents filed with Cincinnati U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott, the plaintiffs - Bond Hill businessman Bomani Tyehimba, the Cincinnati Black United Front, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio - also ask the city to "share in the cost" to bring in a conflict resolution team.

The proposal for mediation is viewed as such an innovative approach to dealing with police- community relations problems that a private foundation may be willing to foot some of the bill.

"This would be an opportunity for the city to take a lead in what's been an intractable problem, not just in Cincinnati, but in the nation," said Steve Kelban of the Andrus Family Fund. "By taking a step like this, Cincinnati could become the model for jurisdictions across the country."

"A lot of cities are in this situation and they are very frustrated with how these problems live on. Facilitation is a way to get involvement from all the different stakeholder groups and come up with a consensus everybody can work together on," Kelban said.

Mediation can pay for itself in the long run, said Jay Rothman, president of the ARIA Group, the Yellow Springs, Ohio - based firm recommended by the plaintiffs.

"This kind of work, while labor intensive and demanding of a real, significant investment of time and money, can represent tremendous cost savings. If, in this process, we can reduce the number of incidents and the number of lawsuits, think of how much could be saved."

For the mediation proposal to be work, all sides must make a "good-faith effort" to reach the goal of ending racial profiling, said Samuel Walker, a criminal justice professor and author of the book "Police Accountability."



The Cincinnati Police - Community Relations Collaborative