Sunday, November 26, 2000

Hurt officer sees absence of sympathy

Council, mayor didn't check on his condition

By Jane Prendergast and Robert Anglen
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        No get-well cards. No calls. And Cincinnati Police Officer Tim Pappas feels everything from disappointed to flat-out mad.

        He's the officer shot Nov. 8 during a scuffle with an accused shoplifter in Pleasant Ridge. It was the second of two fatal police confrontations in two days, a combination that has prompted protests and allegations of racial profiling because both victims were African-American.

        Officer Pappas, a member of the force for almost four years, is back to work. The three staples needed to close a gash in his head have been removed, but his hand's still bandaged where the bullet pierced it.

        What hurts him now is the response he sees from his bosses at City Hall. While they're calling in public for an end to racial profiling and urging contributions to at least one of the dead suspects' families, he said not one council member has taken the time to call or send a card.

        One, Councilman Phil Heimlich, did ask Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman how he was doing.

        Officer Pappas said he feels disregarded and unappreciated, and he is angry at the way he thinks council members instead are favoring the families of the two men killed by police. The treatment, he said, demoralizes every one of the Cincinnati Police Division's 1,000 men and women, a group already smarting from perennial knocks alleging bad community relations.

        “If they could care less about me, they could care less about any officer on this division,” Officer Pappas said. “It's a tragic event. Why not just a thank you, a "Thanks for putting your butt on the line'?”

        A call from Mayor Charlie Luken, he said, “would've been kind of like a call from the president. That would've made my day.”

        On Friday, Mr. Luken said he had tried to call but had an incorrect number. When he called the FOP for the right number, Officer Pappas declined to talk to him, saying the eighth day after the shooting was just too late to express anything sincere.

        Councilman Pat DeWine said he decided against calling after hearing about the mayor's difficulties.

        “I hope he is well,” Mr. Luken said.

        Councilwoman Minette Cooper said she feels guilty for not calling the officer and promises to “make it right.” Officer Pappas has every reason, she said, to be angry.

        “I feel derelict,” she said, adding that the oversight was probably because of the storm of controversy that has swept City Hall since the shooting. “That's not an excuse. ... an officer was injured in the line of duty.”

        Councilman Paul Booth called the oversight “an omission of the head and not the heart.” He admitted he forgot in the almost ceaseless barrage of protests and other events since the suffocation death of Roger Owensby in police custody on Nov. 7 and the shooting of Jeffrey Irons the following day. Mr. Irons was shot and killed by another officer after police said he grabbed a sergeant's gun and shot Officer Pappas with it.

        “So I want to extend my apologies from myself and my family,” Mr. Booth said. “With this as a wake-up call and a reminder, I will make it my business to do something.”

        Officer Pappas said while it's too late to make him feel better, he wishes all city officials would remain more neutral until all the investigations are finished in both cases.


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