UC's Eck Calls Racial Profiling Settlement
Date: April 4, 2002
'A Very Good Deal'
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Archive: General News
Photo by Colleen Kelley
His name wasn't nearly as familiar as the other participants, but throughout the 100 final hours of hard negotiations in Cincinnati's racial profiling mediation process - and the nine months of hard work that preceded them, UC associate professor of criminal justice John Eck was a quiet factor who helped steer the talks to success.
"He's a bit of an unsung hero here," said Jay Rothman, the court-appointed mediator who oversaw the talks. "A good description of John is that he's indomitable and just a gift for the Cincinnati community."
Eck, an expert on policing, was present throughout the process. "I'm very pleased with the agreement and think that this is a very good deal for the Cincinnati community," Eck said. "When Jay and the parties asked me to help, I could not say no. I know something about policing and this is my community. Sitting on the side and complaining was not an option."
"He was interesting to watch as the negotiations went on," said Lisa Growette Bostaph, one of three criminal justice graduate students who assisted Eck in compiling material on the best practices in policing from around the country. "He's a bit of a skeptic at heart, so he kind of kept this healthy skepticism the whole time. But when (the agreement) happened Tuesday, he came in the next morning with his face lit up like a kid on Christmas morning."
Eck was brought into the process last June. "It was clear that we needed a subject-matter expert on policing and this would need to be a person all sides trusted as objective and deeply knowledgeable," Rothman said. "Then, his expertise in problem-oriented policing was really the clincher."
Eck and grad students Growette Bostaph, Robert Brown and Shawn Minor spent last summer canvassing the country's law enforcement agencies for material relevant to the discussions that were taking place in Cincinnati. In mid-December, Eck was called upon to create the first text that was the platform from which the formal negotiating process began. "Starting in mid-December, John started taking the helm and based on the research from his students, he worked with me, but he absolutely took the lead in writing the first draft of the text," Rothman said.
Eck then was described as a steadying process throughout the often difficult talks. "He stuck through this," Rothman said. "This process had many more thins than thicks, and with his sense of humor and confidence, he helped me keep believing this could work." Rothman found this particularly ironic, because when the two first met last June, they did not find much common ground in their approaches.
Working on the project was viewed as an incredible opportunity by the grad students, who are among the nation's best students in their field. The students were drawn to UC's criminal justice department because of its reputation for research excellence, which included a ranking as No. 1 nationally for publication of research by the Journal of Criminal Justice in January.
"This was a very challenging situation," said Brown, who will soon earn his doctorate and join the faculty next fall at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. "There were so many views on a situation like this and so many needs, it was difficult to reach this point. This was about the city, the police division and the citizens. It allowed us to work with those groups unabated."
"I've been very lucky to be part of this process and to have the access to the racial profiling data," said Growette Bostaph, a former police trainer who is interested in researching racial profiling and use of force issues. "I don't think many grad students anywhere get to play the role I've been able to play in this process."