Jury deadlocks on racial discrimination suit by 2 officers

July 23, 2022 GMT

CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio jury has deadlocked on a racial discrimination suit filed against the city of Cincinnati and its former police chief by two officers, one white and one Black, over different discipline imposed after use of the same racial slur.

The jury of six women and four men, all white, deliberated for about eight hours before a mistrial was declared Friday evening in the suit filed by officers Donte Hill and Dennis Barnette. A new trial date was set for Aug. 16.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Hill, who is Black, was given a written reprimand after he was recorded using the language while responding to a 2018 fight. Barnette, who is white, was suspended after he was recorded using the same word several months later while trying to make an arrest outside a nightclub.

Former Chief Eliot Isaac, informed of Hill’s punishment, had his case reopened and both men were then given 56-hour, unpaid suspensions. Both punishments were overturned during arbitration and both ended up receiving written reprimands and were compensated for loss of income during the time their police powers were stripped.

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Lawyers for the officers accused Isaac of levying a harsher penalty against Barnette, in part, because he was white. Hill argued he was targeted unfairly due to his race when his punishment was increased.

Lawyers representing Isaac and the city said the initial disparity in punishment was an oversight by a busy chief running a short-staffed department. They said any distress to the officers was not the fault of the chief or the city but was due to the language they themselves had used.

Hill has since left the Cincinnati department and is an officer in Evendale. Barnette remains an officer in Cincinnati.