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Leaders Debate Proposed Settlement

June 6, 2002

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CINCINNATI (AP) _ Church leaders are urging a federal judge to approve the settlement of a lawsuit that accused Cincinnati police of harassing blacks.

U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott was to decide after a hearing Thursday whether she thinks the settlement is fair. It was negotiated by Cincinnati, its police union, and black activists and civil libertarians who sued the city in March 2001.

The lawsuit was filed one month before police fatally shot a black man who was fleeing officers, prompting three days of rioting.

The proposed settlement requires record-keeping of complaints against police and calls on all parties to work cooperatively to try to reduce crime.

Plaintiffs say record-keeping will allow court-appointed monitors to determine whether police are living up to the agreement. The police union says the records will show officers are not harassing blacks.

Baptist, Methodist and Episcopal clergy have written to the judge, saying the settlement will encourage cooperation between the community and police.

``It helps our community move beyond assigning blame to implementing practical programs to improve community-police relations,″ wrote the Rev. Thomas Barnes, moderator of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). ``It addresses an urgent crisis.″

But some black activists said they will object to the proposed settlement.

Monica Williams, a member of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati, said the plan could allow city officials to interfere with a new citizens’ panel that will investigate complaints of police brutality.

The coalition is backing a boycott of Cincinnati in an attempt to pressure the city to improve racial relations. The boycott has prompted entertainers including Bill Cosby, Smokey Robinson, Wynton Marsalis and Whoopi Goldberg to cancel Cincinnati appearances.

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