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Body camera video shows Cincinnati officers using racial slur during arrests

Posted at 12:54 PM, Jan 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-01 13:55:43-05

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Cincinnati, OH (WCPO) -- The Cincinnati Police Department on Monday released body camera footage of two separate incidents in which officers were recorded using a racial slur as they arrested suspects who were black.

Officers Donte Hill, who used the word while responding to a domestic dispute Sept. 26, and Dennis Barnette, who used the word while arresting a woman at the Brownstone Nightclub Dec. 23, were both restricted to desk duty after the incidents came to light.

"This type of behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated inside the department," police Chief Eliot Isaac wrote in an email to City Manager Patrick Duhaney.

In the recording of the Sept. 26 incident, Hill and another officer attempt to diffuse a shouting dispute between a woman and a man she calls her brother, ordering them to either leave the scene or return to the Westwood apartment complex at which the argument started.

Although the man initially appears to obey, a scuffle breaks out roughly five minutes into the recording. Hill proceeds to stun the man with a Taser and then arrest him while he continues to shout at the woman.

“I told you to [expletive] walk off, didn’t I?” Hill, who is black, says to him in the recording. “That goddamn alcohol got you [N-words] out here acting stupid.”

The man would in October plead guilty to obstructing official business in Hamilton County Municipal Court. Documents indicate an additional charge of disorderly conduct was dismissed.

The recording of the Dec. 23 incident begins only seconds before Barnette, who is not black, uses the slur. It shows a pair of women talking in a parking lot after a confrontation with a third party inside Brownstone Nightclub. The officer repeatedly shouts at one to be quiet, approaching her as she begins to shout back.

The next few seconds are difficult to decipher; the woman moves forward and the camera tumbles to the ground. According to court documents, Barnette said she pushed him.

“[N-word] slapped me,” he says in the recording.

“What?” another woman’s voice says. What the [expletive] did you just say?”

Officers arrest the woman accused of pushing Barnette; he puts her in the back seat of a police car.

“I just wanted you to be quiet, and you got in my face and then pushed me in my face,” he says from the front.

“But you were all in the middle telling me to shut up, and I—“ the woman says.

“Yeah,” Barnette says. “You didn’t need to run your mouth anymore.”

The woman would be charged that day with assaulting a police officer.

A bevy of city officials condemned Barnett’s language in social media posts, emails and comments in a Dec. 27 meeting of City Council.

“(Barnette’s) actions are why, in spite of police reform efforts and progress, the Black community remains distrustful of law enforcement,” Councilwoman Tamaya Dennard wrote that morning on Facebook.

Yolanda Miller, who is a member of the executive board of the Cincinnati NAACP as well as the mother of the woman involved in the second incident, said her daughter’s actions did not excuse Barnette’s use of the slur.

"He was wrong," she said. "He does not deserve to be a police officer in Cincinnati, Ohio, but not only in Cincinnati, anywhere, because if that came out with her, it's in his heart."

She and the NAACP chapter called for his termination in a statement.

In an email, Chief Isaac wrote he found both incidents equally egregious.