COLUMBUS, Ohio — Quotas imposed on the Cincinnati Police Department 40 years ago to address a lack of diversity have been lifted by a federal judge, agreeing with the U.S. Justice Department’s argument that the changes are no longer constitutional.
U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott ruled on a consent decree put in place in 1981. At the time, 9.9% of the department’s officers were black and 3.4% were women, ABC News reported.
The judge said such hiring goals can be used to fix problems of diversity, but can no longer help maintain a diverse work force, according to the news outlet.
“Here, by merely stating that evidence of past discrimination by CPD over 40 years ago justifies the use of remedial race-based classifications, the City fails to provide any evidence that at this time the race-based hiring and promotional goals continue to remedy past discrimination or any lingering effects therefrom,” Dlott said in Wednesday’s ruling. As a result, those goals are unconstitutional, she ruled.
The mandates have proved discriminatory as the City learned during a recent lawsuit, although they seem impervious to it.
Last year a white Cincinnati police sergeant filed suit, claiming he was discriminated against when a black officer further down on the eligibility list was allowed to leapfrog him in the promotional process to sergeant. As a result, the Justice Department asked Dlott to remove the requirements following the lawsuit.
Officer Erik Kohler was represented by attorney Chris Wiest in the civil case. The lawyer argued that Kohler was denied seniority and preferential job assignments, and also lost pay in a November complaint. Kohler challenged both the 1981 federal consent decree, which included preferences for promotion to sergeant, and a 1987 state consent decree related to promotion to captain and lieutenant. Kohler started with the department in 1999 as a cadet, ABC reported.
Wiest believes that Dlott’s Friday ruling will not impact Cincinnati police diversity, pointing out that multiple senior officers, including Chief Eliot Isaac, are people of color or women.
“Some people believe that we need these requirements, but I think from my client’s perspective, if you want to end race and sex discrimination, you have to stop discriminating on the basis of race and sex,” Wiest said. Moreover, similar requirements in other jurisdictions have previously been removed for the same reasons, he added.
Mayor John Cranley, a Democrat who is white, and Isaac, who is black, wrote President Joe Biden in March, arguing the agreement should remain in place. The chief acknowledged that his career benefitted from the consent decree.
The mayor said Friday the city is considering whether to appeal the decision.
“We certainly wish the DOJ did not take this action, as the consent decree has been important to our progress,” Cranley said.