CINCINNATI (AP) — An Ohio jury is deadlocked on a racial discrimination complaint filed against the city of Cincinnati and its former police chief by two officers, one white and one black, for different discipline imposed after using 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 night in the lawsuit brought by officers Donte Hill and Dennis Barnette. A new trial date has been set for August 16.
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that Hill, who is black, received a written reprimand after he was taped using the tongue while responding to a fight in 2018. Barnette, who is white, was suspended after being taped in using the same word several months later while attempting to make an arrest outside a nightclub.
Former Chief Eliot Isaac, informed of Hill’s punishment, had his case reopened and both men were subsequently suspended without pay for 56 hours. Both penalties were overturned in arbitration and both ended up receiving written reprimands and compensation for lost income during the period their police powers were removed.
Lawyers for the officers accused Isaac of imposing a harsher sentence on Barnette, in part because he was white. Hill argued he was unfairly targeted because of his race when his sentence was increased.
Lawyers representing Isaac and the city said the initial disparity in penalties was an oversight by a busy chief at the helm of a short-staffed department. They said any distress of 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 at Evendale. Barnette remains an officer in Cincinnati.