Monday, April 16, 2001

Federal investigators on dual mission

Review police procedures as well as Thomas killing

By Marie McCain and Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A litigation team from the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., met last week with members of Cincinnati Black United Front, attorney Ken Lawson, Mayor Charlie Luken and Police Chief Tom Streicher.

        They also met Saturday, while Timothy Thomas' funeral was go ing on, with City Manager John Shirey.

        Mr. Luken reiterated Sunday that federal investigators in Cincinnati have two missions:

        • They'll conduct what is called a “patterns and practices” investigation of police policies and procedures. Cincinnati's black officers' group, the Sentinels, asked for such an investigation 18 months ago, with officials again calling for one after the Nov. 7 death in police custody of Roger Owensby Jr. and last week after Mr. Thomas' death.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        • Investigators from the Justice Department's civil-rights division also will look specifically at the April 7 killing of Mr. Thomas to determine whether there is probable cause that a civil-rights violation occurred, Mr. Luken said.

        The FBI also is opening an investigation into Mr. Thomas' death, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.

        Mr. Lawson said Sunday that during his meeting with Justice Department officials he outlined his clients' racial profiling lawsuit against the city and turned over interviews with people who said they had been profiled by Cincinnati police.

        He said Justice Department officials plan to conduct their own interviews to determine whether the agency should become involved in Cincinnati's case.

        The department has been involved in the Steubenville, Ohio, racial profiling lawsuit, and sued the city of Columbus for alleged police brutality, Mr. Lawson said.

       Enquirer reporter Robert Anglen contributed to this story.


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