Thursday, April 29, 1999

Police review unit told to be watchdog

New chief begins making changes

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Just two months on the job as Cincinnati's police chief, Thomas Streicher Jr. has revamped a “watchdog” unit to critique police procedures and training.

        Beginning Sunday, the division's inspections section will become a separate unit with its own captain, responsible for everything from reviewing police shootings to auditing who is going to court.

        “The inspections section is kind of the watchdog for the police division,” Chief Streicher said. It is responsible for reviews that give a snapshot of whether officers are operating in line with the division's mission and goals, he said.

        In a meeting Wednesday with The Cincinnati Enquirer's editorial board, Chief Streicher outlined some of his priorities as the leader of the city's 1,000-member police force.

        One goal was to realign his staff, including the tasks assigned to assistant chiefs and captains.

        In a move effective Sunday, Captain Steve Gregoire will lead the inspections section, a unit that will take a Monday morning quarterback approach to serious police incidents by conducting reviews that could be used to improve training, Chief Streicher said.

        Training has been a focus since the chief faced his first major controversy with the March 19 fatal shooting of Michael Carpenter.

        Two young officers stopped Mr. Carpenter for expired tags and shot him because they said he tried to run them over. Conflicting reports surrounding Mr. Carpenter's death have prompted a public outcry.

        While Chief Streicher is waiting for results of investigations into whether the shooting was justified, he said he is listening to community concerns.

        One of his messages is that police will be held accountable for their actions.

        “I know there have been questions about "Can the police police themselves?'” he said. “I simply would say that I've been involved in it personally for years and years. I've been investigated by the police division myself.”

        His own 28-year police career includes fatally shooting a suspect in self-defense during a 1980 drug arrest. He has investigated other officers as commander of the internal investigations section.

        But Chief Streicher, 45, the son of a Cincinnati police officer, sees room for improvement in training and community relations.

        One change he wants to make is abandoning the corporate approach to sensitivity and cultural-diversity training.

        “Sometimes the business model kind of that has to go out the window because of a real-life scenario that's going on,” he said.

        Chief Streicher has discussed bringing former mayor Dwight Tillery in as a consultant to help the division address “some of the age-old concerns between police and community relations.”

        Mr. Tillery said he could help tear down the walls between police and the African-American community.

        “What we need to do is create those forums and build those bridges to create better working relationships,” Mr. Tillery said.


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