Friday, June 15, 2001

New cops survived on-scene riot training

By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The 90th recruit class of new Cincinnati police officers graduates today after training during some of the most tumultuous times in the city's history.

        Today's 32 graduates served as support staff — moving vehicles, equipment and food — for city police during the April riots and curfew that followed the shooting of a young unarmed African-American man by a white officer.

[photo] Police recruit Michelle Cameron gets a congratulatory hug from Sgt. Tony Shearer, one of her trainers, on Thursday.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        “They had a firsthand flavor of what it was like out in the streets,” Cincinnati Police Academy Director Ted Schoch said Thursday. "They were able to see firsthand how quickly things can happen. It's an unusual position to be in.”

        Not since the class of 1968, which graduated in the wake of the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., have city police recruits earned their badges during riots. During this year's 23 weeks of training, the federal government also began investigating their future employer for decades of alleged civil rights violations and questioned the actions of some of their trainers.

        But the graduates, and their instructors, said Thursday that while the riots were unfortunate and regrettable, they did provide a unique training experience no classroom exercise could duplicate.

        Recruit Rosa Chatman sees any divisiveness caused by the unrest as an opportunity to strengthen the bond between the city's 331,000 citizens and the 1,020 officers who pledge to protect them.

        “We need to reconnect the community back to the Cincinnati police department,” said the 34-year-old Westwood woman. “We still have a lot of supporters out there, but the few we lost we have to get them back.”

   • 32: Number of graduating recruits in Cincinnati Police Division's 90th training class.
   • 29: Number who will become Cincinnati officers (two are Cincinnati fire investigators, one was trained for Norwood Police).
   • 24: Male recruits (seven African-American, 17 white).
   • 8: Female recruits (three African-American, five white).
   • 28: Average age (oldest is 40, youngest 21).
   • 29: Number of recruits who have taken college classes (two have associate's degrees in criminal justice, five have bachelor's degrees, two have master's degrees, one is working on a Ph.D.).
        Classmate Michelle Cameron said helping officers during the riots only strengthened her resolve to join the department.

        “I wanted to be out there with our fellow officers,” said the 31-year-old Roselawn woman, whose father was a 23-year veteran of the force. He died of a heart attack in 1994.

        Ms. Cameron said a wider perspective is required when evaluating the riots and that people should keep in mind that “Cincinnati is not the first place where civil unrest ever happened.”

        Since January, the recruits have sweated through workouts three times a week, spent weeks in the classroom learning community policing, ethics and techniques other than force that can be used to control a suspect. Many more weeks were spent training with 9mm Smith & Wessons.

        Ms. Cameron and Ms. Chatman spent the last day of their recruit training wrapping up their instruction and presenting gifts to academy instructors.

        Today's commencement is 1 p.m. at the Cincinnati Masonic Temple, 317 E. Fifth St. Xavier University President Michael Graham will be keynote speaker.

        The new officers will begin the second phase of their training Sunday when they are assigned to work with field training officers in the city's five police districts.


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