Report cites Ohio cop's 'critical errors' in motorist death
The report also raised questions about the university department's policing in urban neighborhoods
By Dan Sewell
CINCINNATI — A University of Cincinnati police officer had judgment errors and used poor police tactics in the "entirely preventable" fatal shooting of a motorist pulled over for not having a front license plate, according to an outside review commissioned by the school that was released Friday.
The report, which also raised questions about the university department's policing in urban neighborhoods, said Officer Ray Tensing's assertions about the danger he was in before he fired his gun are "plainly contradicted" by video and audio recordings.
The school in late July hired New York-based risk management company Kroll Inc. to review police actions in the traffic stop shooting of 43-year-old Samuel DuBose. Tensing has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and voluntary manslaughter. UC fired him soon after his indictment.
Kroll reported that Tensing's use of deadly force after stopping DuBose for a missing front license plate went against school policy and basic police training. The report stated that Tensing's initial tactics in pulling over and questioning DuBose near campus were appropriate, but the 25-year-old officer then made "critical errors in judgment and exercised poor police tactics that created a hazard ... and heightened the risks of a dangerous escalation."
Attorney Stewart Mathews has said Tensing feared he would be dragged under the car as DuBose tried to drive away. He said Friday he hadn't seen the Kroll report.
"That's what we have a courtroom for," said Mathews, who already has a pending motion to move the trial out of Hamilton County, saying Tensing can't get a fair trial here because of extensive publicity and what he calls prejudicial comments by local officials.
The Kroll report said other UC police personnel who responded to the shooting scene "acted properly," except for a few minor mistakes.
It also said DuBose's own actions in trying to start his car in an apparent attempt to drive away "made matters worse." The report stated that Cincinnati police who obtained a search warrant found marijuana, prescription drugs and $2,600 cash in the car. It said while Tensing wouldn't have known the car had illegal contraband in it, it could help explain why DuBose was apparently anxious to get away.
The fatal shooting of DuBose, an unarmed black man, by Tensing, who is white, came during increased attention nationally on how police deal with blacks.
Authorities haven't focused on race as a factor in this death, but the University of Cincinnati's police chief expressed alarm last month at a Cincinnati Enquirer report that showed a surge in citations against black motorists and pedestrians in the months before the fatal shooting. The newspaper said Tensing stopped and cited minority drivers at higher rates than other officers did.
The Kroll report offered recommendations to the school including increasing diversity in the police force and offering cultural diversity training for all officers. It also suggested a comprehensive review of the police force and its mission in an urban campus area.
"Working as a police officer on a university campus and providing safety and security to faculty, students and visitors is distinctly different from patrolling racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse urban neighborhoods," the report stated.
The school has pledged to make reforms in its policing and has restructured leadership for public safety, including hiring an assistant Cincinnati police chief as director of public safety. While school officials said Friday that university police working with Cincinnati police have helped reduce robberies of both students and nonstudents, they pledged to use the Kroll report to help their reform efforts.
"We're going to work very hard to rebuild community trust," said Robin Engel, UC vice president for safety and reform.
A pretrial conference in Tensing's case is scheduled for Nov. 16.
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press