Friday, January 12, 2001

Race relations


Blue-ribbon commission is needed

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        A grieving mother and a worried wife met face-to-face this week at City Hall.

        While a divided city struggles to make something right out of two wrongs — wrongs that make a mother grieve and a wife worry — the two woman courageously spoke to each other.

        While others engage in name-calling, levy charges and plan class-action lawsuits, the women talked.

        The entire city could benefit from less confrontation and more communication.

        The women spoke with heavy hearts. The last time members of their families crossed paths, a man died. Because of that death, another man could lose his job and his freedom.

Face-to-face
        The grieving mother, Brenda Owensby, went to City Hall to see the face of “the cop who killed my son.” Her son, Roger Owensby Jr., resisted arrest and, in the ensuing struggle, was allegedly choked to death.

        Brenda Owensby came to see Robert Jorg. The cop was indicted last week on charges of involuntary manslaughter and assault in the death of Roger Owensby. If convicted, the 4 1/2-year veteran of the Cincinnati police force would lose his job and could spend more than five years in prison.

        Officer Jorg's wife, Kristin, spoke with Roger Owensby's mother.

        Mrs. Jorg was sorry someone died. She hoped the Owensbys were OK.

        God will sort it out, Mrs. Owensby replied.

        These are the first comments about this case to make sense.

        The death of Roger Owensby is a case of two senseless wrongs. He should not have resisted arrest. When a cop says stop, you stop.

        Officer Jorg and every other lawman should know that when making an arrest, the process should not end in death. Police must make split-second decisions. But a judge and jury will determine if the officer's decisions and actions were correct.

Bright lights
        Cincinnati likes to think of itself as a smart city. The area is blessed with wise men and women and many institutions of higher education. Yet, the city keeps stumbling over senseless behavior that wastes time and money and costs lives.

        On Wednesday, one day after Brenda Owensby and Kristin Jorg met, plans surfaced for a second class-action lawsuit to be filed over allegations of racial profiling by Cincinnati's police.

        The city and its citizens need to get beyond allegations and lawsuits.

        Cincinnatians should assemble a blue-ribbon panel dedicated to improving race relations. Representatives from City Hall, the police and Baptist Ministers Conference must be included.

        The panel should also have clergy from other faiths, former mayors and former police chiefs. Enlist respected figures from all walks of life, from bankers to activists who have battled racism and injustice. Include a mediator from Cincinnati's nationally known Center for Resolution of Disputes.

        The panel would commission a study on race relations in Cincinnati. Make use of the expert social scientists at area universities.

        Data in hand, the panel could make recommendations for change. The community's civic pride must see they are carried out, in the police force as well as the home, where respect for the law begins.

        Everyone must become involved for the city to improve its face-to-face race relations. Cincinnati is smart enough to take two wrongs and make something right.

       Columnist Cliff Radel can be reached at 768-8379; fax 768-8340.
       

       



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