Friday, May 25, 2001

Cincinnati police talk to federal attorneys




By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Federal investigators came face-to-face Thursday in Cincinnati with the leaders of the police division they're about totake a hard look at.

        City officials, including Chief Tom Streicher, spent much of the day in meetings with the two U.S. Department of Justice lawyers in town from Washington, D.C., and their two law-enforcement consultants.

Martin
Martin
        With police was their new attorney, Billy Martin, the former federal prosecutor and Monica Lewinsky legal adviser hired to help them through what they hope will be a cooperative process rather than an adversarial one.

        Mr. Martin spent hours talking with the federal lawyers and ironing out what he called an agreement about how the federal investigation would proceed. He would not answer questions about the meetings, saying his 50-lawyer firm had barely gotten started on the case.

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        A former assistant city solicitor, Mr. Martin said it was good to be back in Cincinnati, but “it's not good to be back under these circumstances.”

        “Most importantly,” he said, “we hope that justice will be served.”

        He called Thursday's sessions with the Justice Department team productive.

JUSTICE MARCH
    The mother of Timothy Thomas and a former Ohio governor joined a diverse group of citizens Thursday as they announced a June 2 “March for Justice.”
    Former Gov. John Gilligan and Angela Leisure, Mr. Thomas' mother, said the march is intended to be peaceful and demand accountability for Mr. Thomas' death. The unarmed man was shot by a Cincinnati police officer April 7.
    The 11 a.m. march will begin at Fountain Square and end at the annual “Mac Day” celebration in Laurel Park in the West End to honor the late Rev. Maurice McCrackin, a social-justice activist.
        “We are hopeful that the agreements we reached concerning the investigative process will help ensure that a thorough review is undertaken, and that the federal government, the city of Cincinnati and — most importantly - the citizens of this city will be satisfied with the outcome.”

        The federal team also met with people outside the police division, including Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman, NAACP President Norma Holt Davis, members of the Cincinnati Black United Front and the Sentinels, the group of black police officers.

        Mr. Fangman called his meeting cordial and professional.

        “We will simply take things day by day,” he said, “and see how this progresses before we make a final judgment on anything.”

        Local lawyers Ken Lawson, Scott Greenwood and Al Gerhardstein talked with the federal team Wednesday night. They talked mostly, Mr. Lawson said, about the racial profiling lawsuit the three attorneys have pending in federal court here. It alleges Cincinnati police have discriminated against black people for decades.

        The discussion left Mr. Gerhardstein feeling “very encouraged. I thought that they seemed to have a team large enough to get to work promptly.”

        He said he is looking forward to the technical assistance the feds have been promising — expert law-enforcement research he hopes will be helpful in mediating the racial profiling lawsuit.

        The federal lawyers, Shanetta Brown Cutlar and Jim Eichner, would not comment. They were assigned to the case after Mayor Charlie Luken asked last month for federal intervention during the rioting that followed the April 7 shooting of an unarmed black man by a Cincinnati police officer.

        Mr. Luken said then that he hoped the government would help improve relations between African-Americans and police. But he said the city hired Mr. Martin, his law-school classmate at the University of Cincinnati, to make sure the Justice Department did not use Cincinnati as a political platform.

       



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