Thursday, May 25, 2000

Cop: Chief used racial slur

By Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Cincinnati police officer wants the police chief to be disciplined for using a racial insult during a training class.

        Sgt. Andre Smith has accused Chief Thomas Streicher of referring to him with a slur as a way to “vent anger” over positions taken by the Sentinel Police Association, an organization of black officers.

        To illustrate a police-citizen confrontation, Chief Streicher reportedly asked a group of 20 police supervisors what would happen if he called Sgt. Smith a particularly objectionable racial slur.

        The sergeant said his first reaction was to “strike Chief Streicher” but instead he has filed a complaint asking for administrative sanctions against the chief.

        Sgt. Smith wrote in his complaint that he was “completely shocked, embarrassed and angry” that Chief Streicher used the racial slur to refer to him in the classroom example. “I can honestly say I feel Chief Streicher launched a personal attack.”

        Chief Streicher was out of town Wednesday and could not be reached for comment. But Public Safety Director

        Kent Ryan said the chief has confirmed what took place.

        “The chief used this as an example,” said Mr. Ryan, who oversees the police department.

        He said the chief did not mean to offend anyone and until the May 17 complaint was filed — a week after the class — did not realize there was a problem.

        Mr. Ryan would not discuss any possible discipline or say if the chief violated any city rules, saying he wanted to review the matter with the city manager.

        While City Manager John Shirey did not return phone calls Wednesday, he recently sent an updated conduct code to all city departments, prohibiting employees from using racial remarks.

        Mr. Ryan said the chief was reviewing the Citizens Complaint Resolution Process with about 20 supervisors at the police academy when the slur was used.

        That process allows citizens who complain about an officer a chance to talk out differences with the officer in a controlled setting.

        Chief Streicher has advocated the process as an alternative to filing formal complaints with Internal Affairs for settling differences between citizens and police that don't involve criminal conduct.

        While Mr. Ryan did not know what the racial slur was supposed to illustrate, he said he did not believe the chief was using it as an insult.

        “I believe the chief's career is defined by 30 fine years of service,” he said, adding that this is the first time a complaint has been filed against Chief Streicher. “He is a very fair, very straightforward individual.”


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