Photo: Cincinnati Police Department file photo
Cincinnati Police Department officer Rose Valentino said a racist slur near a school in Western Hills, an internal police report says.
Valentino, who is white, was caught on her body camera footage saying, “Fucking n******s, I fucking hate them!” while pounding her fist on the steering wheel of her cruiser. The officer also complained about being caught in traffic outside of Western Hills University High School, which is part of the Cincinnati Public Schools district.
The internal report says Valentino said the n-word after a student flashed the officer his middle finger, a claim that is only supported by Valentino's testimony. Body camera footage offers a narrow view of the area where Valentino was driving, so the student mentioned in the report is not visible.
Then-interim Chief of Police Teresa Theetge recommended Valentino's termination, and the city followed through.
Valentino also was the subject of a 2019 lawsuit that alleged she was one of three officers who illegally detained a Black realtor and a Black prospective homebuyer
during a scheduled house viewing in West Price Hill in November 2018. The city ended up apologizing and issued a $151,000 settlement to the men.
Valentino quickly appealed the decision, as is her right according to the labor contract between the city and CPD’s union, the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). That left the decision up to a panel of three independent arbitrators from the American Arbitrators Association. The arbitrators had the ultimate authority to reinstate Valentino.
Dan Hils, the officer-elected president of the FOP, confirmed to CityBeat on July 5 that the arbitrators chose not to give Valentino her job back. He said the decision shocked him because the arbitrators asked for an extension at one point, giving him hope for a positive outcome.
“I had guessed it might have been a positive thing for the union. That they tried to let even more dust settle on this before they gave her her job back,” he said. “I thought maybe they were allowing more time for emotions to calm. I was shocked that they asked for more time and the results were still for her to remain fired.”
Another thing that “shocked” Hils was the city allowing Cincinnati’s NAACP chapter president, Joe Mallory, to testify to arbitrators.
“I remain most shocked at the city bringing in Joe Mallory as a witness to this,” Hils said. “I have never seen anything like that ever before, and I hope I never see anything like that again.”
Mallory told CityBeat he had members of the community, including CPD officers, reach out to him asking him to do something about Valentino's potential rehiring. But Hils told CityBeat he perceived Mallory’s testimony as threatening should Valentino be rehired.
“My perception was that he was letting arbiters know that there could be trouble if they returned her job. So, I saw it as a threat,” Hils told CityBeat.
Mallory disagrees, calling Hils’ words “irresponsible.”
“The narrative that Dan Hils is trying to spin is a revisionist narrative and it’s irresponsible," Mallory said. “I didn’t say anything about anything happening in the city if the case was not upheld. What I did say was that, if they put her back on the street, the police and the urban community, it will be a slap in the face.”
The arbitration transcript shows Mallory said, in part, there would be an “outcry” from the community if Valentino were to be reinstated.
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“It is my belief that, over the years, we were trying to build trust with the police department and community. So we’ve been working on this journey of building trust. I think this trust was torn. The fabric of trust was torn in the community,” Mallory said according to the transcript. “And the community had an expectation that the right thing would be done by the powers that be in the police department. They expected a termination, nothing less than that. If she were to return to the police force, there would be an outcry in the community. People would be very upset.”
The transcript then shows Valentino’s attorney asking Mallory “if they reverse this decision, if they follow just cause standards and reverse the decision, [are you] going to advocate for unrest in the city of Cincinnati?”
“I never said that. I said we were advocates,” Mallory responded. There were no more questions.
Hils maintains the decision for the city to fire Valentino was political. He told CityBeat
the arbitrators were following suit.
"I felt it was because of political reasons, if you will," he said. "They play into the reaction in the media. I don’t think they did it because of the actual offense as much as for the political fear that it wouldn’t play well if she kept her job. So I thought that’s why they fired her, I thought that’s why they arbitrated her the way they did."
"Look, it's an ugly and terrible word, and I want everybody, white and Black, to refrain from using it," Hils said. "There is a reality of use within the cultures we have to interact with constantly, and for it to come out subconsciously and that to be a death penalty on a 14 or 20 or 25 year career is not a reasonable thing."
Hils told CityBeat
Valentino was “cautiously optimistic” she’d get her job back, but now her only way to return to CPD would be to sue for wrongful termination. Hils said he doesn’t know if Valentino will take that route.
Read the arbiters' decision in detail below:
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