The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio on April 3, 2011 · Page 47
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The Cincinnati Enquirer from Cincinnati, Ohio · Page 47

Cincinnati, Ohio
Issue Date:
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Page 47
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F4 SUNDAY, APRIL 3, 2011 THE ENQUIRER CINCINNATI'S DECADE OF CHANGE Riots led to top-down change within the police department 1 I : 2E5 1 fl fer f- The Enquirer Joseph Fuqua II Cincinnati Police officers go through a weapons inspection before the beginning of a shift. In late 2003, officers received Tasers after the death of an African-American man beaten with batons by officers. Serious crime since the riots Over-the-Rhine and the city as a whole saw a spike in serious crime including homicide, rape, robbery, burglary and assault in the years following the riots, but numbers have been steadily dropping since. OVER-THE-RHINE Calls for service Serious crime 22,000 iV m M.5M V 16M 19.000 Y ' . . 17.500 993 16,000 r I 1200 v I 14,500 1,000 ' 13,030 - - 800 - - - 2001 '02 '03 '04 '05 06 '07 '08 '09 '10 2001 '02 03 '04 '05 '06 '07. '08 '09 '10 CITY TOTAL Calls for service Serious crime Streicher has held press conferences quickly after the events, showing video when possible. More change needed Keith Fangman, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in 2001, said the lower number of suspects killed by police doesn't mean that violent incidents still don't happen regularly. There are still violent suspects shooting at police," he said. The fact that none of them have been killed by police, frankly, is sometimes just coincidence." He agrees that the relationship between the police department and Cincinnati's black leadership has greatly improved in the past decade. And he feels there's a more friendly atmosphere toward officers in Avondale, where he works second shift. But there's one thing he says hasn't improved - cooperation from witnesses to violent crime. He was the first on the scene three weeks ago where a 15-year-old was shot in the head. He got there within seconds to find a dozen or more people standing around the victim. Yet none would say what happened. What lies ahead With a new police chief coming in and continuing budget deficits, maintaining the reforms might be a challenge. Saul Green, the court-ordered federal monitor who oversaw Cincinnati's police reforms for six years, was "greatly impressed" with the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, started in 2007 to identify groups committing crimes and target them. But City Council cut CIRVs budget for this year, and the streetworkers - who walked neighborhoods talking to people after incidents to promote calm -were cut. The complaint authority was merged last year with the city's internal audit department to save money on support staff. Despite the cuts, city officials say they remain committed to reform. 4 The advertisement for a new chief to replace Streicher, who retired on March 26, written by City Manager Milton Dohoney's office, specifies that the city is seeking someone who will keep the improvements and strive for more. They're clearly a lot better," the Rev. Damon Lynch III said of Cincinnati officers. He was former president of the Black United Front and led calls for a boycott of downtown Cincinnati after the riots. The boycott was successful for a time, prompting the Urban League to cancel its 2002 convention and other authors and performers to cancel. "I think they've given it a good try," Lynch said. "I think they've made a good faith effort. It's, important that the new chief buys into the collaborative and moves it even further down the road." By Jane Prendergast I I spond if someone runs away from fl them in Over-the- I I Rhine might be to-J U tally different today than 10 years ago. They'd know, for example, because of computers in their cars, the exact nature of that person's criminal history. When Timothy Thomas was shot in April 2001, officers only knew from a dispatcher that he had more than a dozen warrants. Today, they would know that the warrants were for minor infractions, such as failure to wear a seatbelt. Also today, they can call for help from an officer specially trained in handling people with mental health problems. They carry a Taser to use as an alternative to their gun. And they're reminded of a new police department culture that stresses customer service as much as it does catching bad guys. The changes since Thomas' death and the ensuing riots are many. But here's the dramatic result: In the six years before the riots, 15 men - all African-American - died in confrontations with police. In the last 10 years? Eight, six of them black. Cincinnati officers have been involved in fewer police shootings since 2004 than their counterparts in the larger cities of Cleveland and Columbus as well as Dayton, Toledo and Akron. The reasons for that decline include everything from technology and training to luck. Cops are still cops, as Chief Tom Streicher said just before he retired in March. They're adrenaline junkies who have to think fast in dangerous situations. But the 1,068 working in Cincinnati now, he said, are better trained, more carefully watched and more mindful of the power they wield and the effect it can have on people. There's no one single thing you can point to," Streicher said. "There's an improved approach to how we conduct business and it starts with training. We've continued to ask ourselves: Even if an action is right, is there a better way to do business?" Christopher Smitherman, president of the Cincinnati branch of the NAACP, said the department's foremost change was that it began to understand that "cultural competency" - the ability to interact with people of different cultures - is key. "You have to start there," he said. "They acknowledged that it's important, that it's not just political correctness. I see better communication ... not a rush to judgment. "That's how you know we're really in a sweet spot." Tension pre-dated riots The April 2001 riots are viewed by many as the beginning of the poor relationship m 30,000 28,262 310,000 , .. K 313,129 wo Lv 300,000 r J S ... . 290,000 lJ iiwa 280,000 25,000 V 23 077 , U 24,000 -VJ,U 23.000 J 260,000 22,000 m WM 2001 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08 '09 '10 2001 '02 '03 '04 '05 '06 '07 '08 '09 '10 Source: Cincinnati Police Department The EnquirerMike Nyerges But it seems to have had the opposite effect. CCA data shows improvement in the number of investigations against officers and a reduction in the number of complaints sustained against officers. In 2004, the first year the CCA started keeping data, it investigated 193 complaints, some with multiple allegations of misconduct. The CCA sustained 92 allegations, or almost half, exonerating officers in 119 allegations. Last year, 83 were investigated, with 17 percent sustained and 51 percent exonerated. Better communication The changes within the police department also have led to fewer lawsuits, said Greenwood, the ACLU lawyer who helped fight the city on racial profiling. "You can't beat the transparency now," Greenwood said. "You can go to the department's website and get all the documents, all their policies on use of force. That's the way it ought to be. Tell the world." The department isn't telling the world, however, all the details of the most recent shooting of a suspect, in September 2010 when an Iron Horsemen gang member was killed in a shootout with officers outside a Camp Washington bar. The department won't release the names of the officers involved, arguing that their safety could be compromised. The Enquirer has filed a lawsuit to try to get that information. However, communication about significant events is generally handled much differently now. The Monday after Thomas was shot, a City Council meeting blew out of control after police and officials would not answer Thomas' mother's questions about what happened. Streicher would say later that he couldn't elaborate then because he knew the officer, Stephen Roach, had lied but could not yet prove it. Roach changed his story about what happened that night, saying first that he thought Thomas had a gun, then later that he accidentally fired because he was startled. In cases since, between Cincinnati's black community and the police department. But the tension pre-dated the riots by years, as did a call for police reform. Harvey Price was the first in a list of what would grow to 15 black men - some of them unarmed - killed in confrontations with police in six years leading up to the riots. He was shot to death in February 1995 after he killed a 15-year-old girl with an ax and held police at bay for hours. Two months later, the arrest Downtown of Pharon Crosby, an 18-year-old Aiken High School student, would exacerbate tensions. Caught on video, it prompted complaints that officers used excessive force. The city manager suspended the officers. Police commanders knew distrust was brewing. In March 2001, Streicher acknowledged that some officers did practice biased policing. That admission was momentous, a signal that department leadership was willing to listen, said ACLU attorney Scott Greenwood. The department in 2002 lifted its requirement that recruits be under 35, with officials saying they wanted to diversify the force and boost its maturity. About 30 percent of Cincinnati officers are now African-American, just slightly more than in 2001. The force's makeup has changed in other ways, though: New hires are encouraged to have college degrees. The 2004 recruit class of 50 included 25 with some post-high school education. In the 2006 class of 50 recruits, 42 had attended college. There have been no recruits since 2008 because of budget cuts. Change didn't come easily The riots neither initiated the racial tension nor the police reforms, but accelerated both. In March 2001, a month before the riots, the ACLU and local groups joined a 1999 lawsuit filed by Bomani Tyehimba, claiming police had discriminated against black people in Cincinnati for decades. That lawsuit led to the Col headquarters. But changes came anyway. Among them: Training in low-light situations like the alley where Thomas died and in dealing with suspects with mental health issues Computers in officers' cruisers now give them access to a person's detailed criminal record, complete with a picture. Foot pursuit policy changed to require that officers, rather than just running, assess whether a pursuit is appropriate, taking into consideration the seriousness of the offense, whether the suspect is armed and their ability to apprehend at a later date. In late 2003 the city bought updated Tasers for all officers after the death of Nathaniel Jones, an African-American man with drugs in his system. Officers hit him repeatedly with their batons. The Citizens Complaint Authority was created in 2002 to do independent reviews of all serious uses of force by police officers. Officers balked, insisting the agency would be just another way their actions could be misunderstood and used against them. laborative Agreement in 2002 between the ACLU, Cincinnati Black United Front, city and police union, which required police to adopt community-oriented policing as a strategy. A Memorandum of Understanding, a deal signed with the U.S. Department of Justice, required many more concrete reforms, including in the way uses of force are recorded and tracked. U.S. District Judge Susan Dlott appointed a federal monitor who oversaw compliance for the next six years. Though lauded now, the reforms got off to a rough start. Officers already upset that colleagues were prosecuted in the deaths of Roger Ow-ensby Jr. in 2000 and Thomas in 2001 felt unsupported by their own leadership and by City Hall. They acted out in the summer of 2001 with a work slowdown none would admit to but that arrest statistics bore out. Police leadership initially felt federal officials were cramming reforms down their throats. Officials denied federal monitors access to documents and training sessions. Streicher once ushered one of the federal monitors out of police What came before, what happened during the riots To click through an ex- panded American officials and religious leaders called for a way to choose a police chief from outside the ranks. Voters passed a charter amendment in November 2001 to allow it, and it's in use now in the search for a replacement for retired Chief Tom Streicher. out of his car at gunpoint, filed a fed eral lawsuit claiming police discriminated against him because he was black. June 1999: City Manager John Shirey named a seven-member Citizens Police Review Panel to review allegations of police misconduct. timeline of events with photos, go to Search: 10 years Thomas the city so far. The largest amount was $1.5 million to the family of Timothy Thomas. July 2003: The private, nonprofit Cincinnati Center City Development Corp. (3CDC) was founded to focus on Fountain Square and projects in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. The group started applying for federal New Market Tax Credits, which give investors a 39 percent tax credit for investing in distressed neighborhoods. Since 2004, the group says, more than $197 million has been invested in these areas. October 2004: Mayor Charlie Luken tried unsuccessfully to end the federal oversight early, saying the department has made major improvements. March 2005: The city fell under a federal court order to obey the Collaborative Agreement after U.S. District Court Judge Susan Dlott decided city officials disobeyed it several times in 2004. This meant the city could be punished with fines or jail time for any future violations. That didn't happen. Jury 2008: Just as a national NAACP conference got under way Downtown, federal monitor Saul Green said monitoring of the police department should end. It lasted six years, a year longer than originally planned. Compiled by Jane Prendergast Though some consider the April 2001 riots the start of racial tensions between Cincinnati police and the African-American community, those problems started years before. Community leaders grew increasingly concerned about deaths of black men in confrontations with police starting in 1995. Police felt they were unfairly labeled racists. Here's a timeline of key events: Feb. 1995: Harvey Price was shot by a Cincinnati SWAT officer after he killed a 15-year-old girl with an ax and held police at bay for hours before advancing on them with a knife held over his head. He would become the first of 15 African-American men, some of them mentally ill, killed in confrontations with Cincinnati police between February 1995 and April 2001. Most were unarmed; one officer was killed and another seriously hurt Police strongly object to the characterization that they target black men. Feb. 1997: Lorenzo Collins, a 25-year-old Avondale man with a history of mental illness, escaped from University Hospital. Ultimately 15 officers surrounded him. He was shot when officers said he charged at them with a brick. His death led to the U.S. Justice Department recommending a citizens panel to review police misconduct allegations. April 1999: Bomani Tyehimba, a Pleasant Ridge businessman ordered I i The group suspended itself in 2002 because of a lack of city staff support and a dispute over who should appoint members. Nov. 7, 2000: Roger Owensby Jr., 29, dies of asphyxiation while handcuffed outside a Bond Hill convenience store. Two officers were indicted and acquitted. His family settled a lawsuit against the city in 2006 for $6.5 million. March 2001: Chief Streicher acknowledges that racial profiling can happen, but says the key to fixing it isn't outlawing it as City Council wanted to do. Getting at what's in officers' hearts, he said, would fix it and it could become a national policing model. Officer Scotty Johnson, then president of the Sentinels group of black police officers and now Mayor Mark Mallory's bodyguard, called for profiling to be a fireable offense. March 2001: The ACLU and local groups joined the 1999 lawsuit filed by Bomani Tyehimba, claiming that police have discriminated against black people in Cincinnati for decades. April 14: Timothy Thomas was buried after his funeral at New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine. Summer 2001: Frustrated police officers pulled back in work slowdown. Violence filled the void, with more than 100 people hurt and 23 killed in shootings throughout the summer. Sept 2001: Officer Stephen Roach was acquitted of negligent homicide charges. The U.S. Department of Justice spent five years investigating the case, but concluded in 2006 that Roach should not face civil rights charges. Roach left the force and went to work at the Evendale Police Department April 2002: Cincinnati officials agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging racial profiling by police and the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice. The police department would be overseen for five years by a court-appointed monitor. May 2003: The city settled 16 police-related lawsuits for a total of $4.5 million in the largest legal settlement in April 7, 2001: Timothy Thomas was shot to death by Officer Stephen Roach, who claimed he thought Thomas was reaching for a gun. Officers chased Thomas because a dispatcher told them he had 14 outstanding warrants. They did not know the warrants were for minor infractions. April 9: A City Council committee meeting goes out of control after city officials, including Streicher, did not answer Thomas' mother's questions about her son's death. An angry crowd walked to police headquarters on Ezzard Charles Drive, throwing bottles and rocks. April 10, 11: Fires were set around Over-the-Rhine, including at Findlay Market Officer Andrew Nogueira was shot in Over-the-Rhine, saved when the bullet hit his belt buckle. April 12: Citywide curfew, the first in more than 30 years, began. Other cities, including Norwood, St Bernard and Cheviot and Green Township, follow suit. April 13: A coalition of 26 African-

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