Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Two black cops quit union, citing Fangman

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Timothy Thomas' death was the last straw for two African-American Cincinnati police officers who announced their resignations from the police union Tuesday.

        They say the union's reaction to Mr. Thomas' shooting — and to the ensuing civil unrest — has amplified their dissatisfaction with the leadership of Queen City Lodge 69 of the Fraternal Order of Police.

        More resignations may follow.

        The head of the Sentinels, an organization of black Cincinnati police officers, said that as many as 35 are considering resigning from the FOP.

        “They just feel fed up,” Sentinels President Scotty Johnson said.

        Of the police division's 1,020 officers, 28 percent are black.

        Tuesday's announcement came a day after 120 African-American Cincinnati firefighters split from their union. The firefighters say they are tired of being treated like second-class citizens.

        So far, the FOP has received the resignations of only District 2 police Officer Eric Dunn, a 15-year veteran, and Sgt. Andre Smith, a 14-year veteran.

        The officers say comments made by FOP president Keith Fangman last week cast a bad light on the police department as a whole.

        Those comments included a demonstration in which Officer Fangman pointed to pictures of 12 of the last 14 police officers killed in the line of duty and indicated that a “black man” killed each officer. His point was that it would be racist of him to draw the conclusion that all black men want to kill police officers, and that it is just as racist to say all police officers want to kill black men.

        “If we have bad cops, (Officer Fangman) has to acknowledge the fact that we have bad officers out there,” said Officer Dunn. “The situation with the (Timothy Thomas) shooting — he has inflamed the citizens more by saying (Mr. Thomas) was reaching for a gun. He would have been better off by just shutting up.”

        “I personally think Mr. Fangman is an embarrassment as an FOP leader,” said Sgt. Smith. “He was only on the streets three or four years before he became FOP president. Part of that immaturity and inexperience is directly related to some of the things he has said that are absurd and embarrassing.”

        Officer Fangman said the officers will have to continue paying bi-weekly dues of $28 because they are still covered by contractual health benefits. However, the officers will lose two separate life insurance policies and use of on-staff attorneys.

        He added that the union has successfully represented Sgt. Smith in several disciplinary grievances.

        “I'm not going to criticize his decision to leave the FOP. He's an adult, and I will respect his wishes,” Officer Fangman said.

        He added that he has been called “one of the most inclusive FOP presidents in the history of the FOP, because I'm the first FOP president to reach out to the Sentinels and actively have Sentinel board members brought on to our most powerful committees.”

        Sentinels president Johnson is a member of the union's Wage Committee, and Darlene Lackey, a specialist assigned to the Homicide Unit, is union treasurer.

        Officer Dunn and Sgt. Smith said they aren't impressed.

        They say the FOP has never supported affirmative action policies within the department and does not listen to its black members.

        Enquirer reporter Jane Prendergast contributed.


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