Cincinnati Insiders Deflate Notion of DOJ 'Shadow Mayor'

Mark Mallory1.jpg
There's been a lot of fear-mongering over the U.S. Department of Justice's proposed consent decree with the city over police reforms. The feds reportedly want an outside monitor--a role Mayor Mike McGinn has likened to a "shadow mayor," interfering with the city's ability to respond rapidly to crisis situations. Similarly, a Seattle Times source referred to the proposed monitor as a "shadow chief."

"It's not true at all," says Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory (pictured above). "The mayor is still the mayor. The chief is still the chief."

Mallory knows of what he speaks because Cincinnati had just such a DOJ-sanctioned monitor for six years after the feds investigated his city's police force and worked out a consent decree. While Mallory came to office several years into the process, missing its tense beginning in 2002, the mayor says he never observed the monitor trying to control police or city decisions on a day-to-day basis.

"As I recall, he was dealing mostly with processes and procedures," Mallory says of monitor Saul Green, a Detroit lawyer, former U.S. attorney in Michigan and someone named by the Times as a possible monitor for Seattle. For instance, the mayor says, Green was looking at how officers were trained and whether they were following new procedures such as filling out "contact cards," which documented every officer interaction with a member of the public.

In fact, Green wasn't even living in Cincinnati, points out John Eck, a professor of criminology at the University of Cincinnati. So Green wasn't in a position to take over in a crisis. When he periodically came to town, he tended to pull a bunch of reports from the previous months and give feedback to the city. "It typically wasn't all bad or good," Eck says.

"The only time there were major blow ups--and there were damn few of them as far as I can recall--was when there were ridiculous stances from the city," Eck adds. The Cincinnati police department objected, for instance, when a member of Green's team wanted to do a ride-along, according to Eck. He says the judge monitoring the consent decree "dropped a hammer" on the department for that one.

Whatever flashpoints there were seem to have dissipated in a rosy glow. Eck says that Cincinnati's police union became an unexpected ally of reformers when the organization realized that many of the reforms--more transparent promotions, for example-- were good for line officers. Green, in his final monitor's report in December 2008, declared the effort he oversaw "one of the most successful police reform efforts ever undertaken in this country."

As for Mayor Mallory, he says he has some advice for any city embarking on DOJ-mandated reform: "Embrace it."

 
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