After deliberating for 25 total hours, jurors in the criminal trial of Ray Tensing, the University of Cincinnati police officer who killed Samuel Dubose, an unarmed black man, last July, were unable to reach a verdict and the judge had to declare a mistrial. “We convinced a lot of [the jurors], but not enough,” Hamilton County prosecutor Joseph Deters told reporters Saturday, saying his office would decide by the end of the month if they would pursue another trial—something that has already been supported by Cincinnati's mayor.
After filing criminal charges last year, Deters referred to the shooting of Dubose, who had been pulled over for a minor traffic violation, as “the most asinine act I’ve ever seen a police officer make.”
Tensing had joined the force in April 2014 after three years as an officer in Greenhills, a suburb of Cincinnati. He previously left the Ohio State Highway Patrol's academy after one day for being able to "adapt" to the environment, the New York Times reported.
In his brief time with the UCPD, Tensing, who was fired after killing Dubose, had four instances in which he used force, according to records obtained by WCPO. In two incidents, he pursued suspects on foot and "displayed," but did not use his gun. In another, he tackled a 15-year-old girl who had been suspected of shoplifting. All four had been deemed "reasonable" by the department.
After graduating from the police academy, he was involved in a fight at a party. Unsatisfied with the CPD's investigation in the case, he conducted his own investigation, according to a defense attorney for the other person involved in the fight, during which he pretended to be other people despite not being a law enforcement agent. The attorney told WCPO that she informed the head of a recruitment program at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office that Tensing is a "ticking time bomb" and that he should not be hired.
The UC and Dubose's family previously reached a $5.3 million settlement, which included $4.85 million for his family, free tuition for his children, and the involvement of his family in efforts to reform the University's police department (UCPD). The UCPD was not included in a 2001 federal consent decree covering the Cincinnati Police Department that eventually lead to significant reforms in that organization. In 2009, the CPD quietly agreed to let UC police patrol the lower-class residential neighborhoods surrounding the school where many students live.
UCPD officers undergo about half the amount of training that CPD officers do, and there are just five people of color on the force. Three other unarmed black men have died since 1997 at the hands of UCPD officers. At the time of Dubose's killing, the UCPD was rapidly increasing both the size of its force and the aggressiveness of its enforcement in its surrounding neighborhoods, according to a Cincinnati Enquirer analysis of UCPD data.
Directly after the shooting, neighborhood patrols were stopped and the Chief of the CPD called for the 2009 agreement to be abandoned. However, a month later, the neighborhood patrols resumed—over the protestations of Dubose's family—and the agreement is still in place.
As municipal police forces have come under more and more scrutiny in recent years, private police forces—including campus police—have flown under the radar and grown significantly in size. A close equivalent to the UCPD is the University of Chicago Police Department, which creates a "wall around Hyde Park," the South Side neighborhood containing the core UofC campus, and serves as the primary police force for some 65,000 Chicagoans—50,000 of whom are unaffiliated with the UofC.
Like the UCPD, it has been credibly accused of targeting black residents of the less affluent neighborhoods surrounding the UofC. David Graham wrote in the Atlantic how "piecemeal" police reform—that would include the municipal police force for a city but not every force within that city, for instance—works against the intent of police reform.
Sam Stecklow is the Weekend Editor for Fusion.