Monday, April 16, 2001

Heads of NAACP, police union clash on talk show

        Excerpts of the debate Sunday between NAACP President Kweisi Mfume and Keith Fangman, president of the Queen City Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, on ABC's This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts.

        Mr. Donaldson: Mr. Mfume, what caused this incident?

        Mr. Mfume: More than anything else, it has been 20 to 25 years of neglect, of frustration, of profiling, of a second-class feeling in Cincinnati. White citizens and black citizens for all that time have been pleading for somebody to take a look at what was going on there, to respond. That didn't happen. ... All of this just bubbled over, but not because of this one incident, because of a number of incidents like this over the years.

        Mr. Donaldson: Mr. Fangman, how do you respond to the fact that Mr. Mfume says this just wasn't an incident, it was all there, it was going to happen.

        Mr. Fangman: Well, Sam, what I would say in terms of the Timothy Thomas shooting last week, it is still under investigation. We don't know all of the facts. I can't sit here and say that Officer Roach is innocent or guilty simply because it has been sent to the grand jury under subpoena, but I will say one thing: Of the 15 police-intervention deaths involving the black males since 1995, 12 of those 15 suspects were armed with deadly weapons. Eight of them were armed with guns in which they shot at our officers or pointed guns at our officers. One was armed with a brick. One was armed with a 2-by-4 with a cluster of nails on the end of it, and two were armed with automobiles, one in which our officer was dragged to his death.

        Mr. Donaldson: Does the fact that the racial imbalances there suggest that there is a problem, that it just isn't a case-by-case problem?

        Mr. Fangman: Absolutely not. Sam, I can assure you and your viewers that of those 15 suspects, 13 of whom were armed with deadly weapons, if everything was the same except those suspects were male whites pointing guns at us or shooting us, the result would have been the same.

        And it has been falsely reported in the media that these are 15 white officers involved in these deaths. That is not true. Prior to the Timothy Thomas shooting, we had three shooting incidents in a two-month period. Three of those shooting incidents were all done by black officers. Two black officers shot and killed two black suspects that shot at them. A third black officer shot and critically wounded a black suspect who robbed a bank and then pointed a gun at the police officer.

        Mr. Donaldson: All right. Mr. Mfume, what about those figures?

        Mr. Mfume: Well, you know, Mr. Fangman is adept at trying to change the debt. You asked him, was the problem brewing all along. He has yet to answer that question. You asked him also, is there something wrong. He has yet to answer that.

        The fact of the matter is it is not to point fingers. We believe that there are decent men and women, officers of this police force, that are being tainted by the actions of a few, and I have had officers come up to me in the street, black and white, saying “Please don't leave this issue, this is important for us.”

        After the funeral yesterday — after the funeral, the governor and the mayor and all the community there trying to put the community back again, one block away police officers open up fire in a crowd, hitting a woman, shooting two little girls. Mr. Fangman does not address that sort of stuff, and this is the kind of thing that I have been saying that for years has been building. There has got to be an admission of the fact that there is a problem.

        People want to work together in Cincinnati, but they can't do that when Mr. Fangman continues to point out what happened in the past.

        What we do know is that Mr. Thomas was not armed. He didn't make an aggressive move. He was shot down in an alley, and there is a grand jury looking at that and so it is not good to go back and say this happened, that happened. We have to find a way to work together. He does not seem like he wants to work with those of us who have been saying you have got to bring healing into this situation, but there has got to be an admission that there is a problem.

        • • • Mr. Donaldson: Without finger-pointing on either side, where do we go from here in Cincinnati and, if by extension elsewhere, to make certain these things don't happen again?

        Mr. Mfume: Well, I want to commend the attorney general, who has been in discussions with us and who has put people on the ground to do a probe of the patterns and practices of the police in Cincinnati because even the Justice Department believes that there is something wrong here.

        I think what we have to do is to recognize one thing. We will all either live together or we will perish together, whether we are in Cincinnati or anywhere else, and we have got to get behind our differences and focus on our similarities. And when we do that, we will see the problems and we will attack them together. When we do not do that, we will continue to point fingers and to use rhetoric to sort of keep us divided and keep us from ever coming to a conclusion.

        Mr. Donaldson: Mr. Fangman, tell us what you think Cincinnati can do to move forward, and specifically, would you sit down with Mr. Mfume, as he suggested?

        Mr. Fangman: Absolutely. And I would like to offer an invitation to Mr. Mfume to come back to Cincinnati to meet with myself and other white and black officers to address the issues of police-community relations and also to assist us in one very important area. Very quickly, since 1995, the same period that there were 15 police-intervention deaths, we have had 238 murders in this city. Of those 238 murders, 80 percent of them were black-on-black murders, and the epidemic of black-on-black violence is a problem. We would like Mr. Mfume to come back to Cincinnati so we can assist our black citizens in stopping this epidemic of black-on-black violence.

        Mr. Mfume: All violence is a problem. All violence, no matter who it affects, black or white, it is a problem.


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