Friday, September 28, 2001

Lynch says he may leave CAN

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The most vocal critic of the city's police force is contemplating leaving Cincinnati Community Action Now if the race commission does not do more “for people on the streets.”

        Despite repeated calls for his resignation from CAN leadership, the Rev. Damon Lynch III said Thursday he plans to stay on board — for now. However, the Over-the-Rhine minister and leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front said he would quit the mayor's task force if its plans don't soon translate into real improvements at a street level.

Complete coverage in our special section.
        “We haven't done anything to put jobs on the streets, food in people's mouths or people in better housing,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. “That has been our failure.”

        The privately funded commission was formed by Mayor Charlie Luken in response to the outbreak of violence and protests over the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, 19, by Officer Stephen Roach. Officer Roach was found not guilty Wednesday on two charges related to the shooting.

        The Rev. Mr. Lynch said initiatives like the media collaborative and study circles are fine. However, CAN needs to move beyond talk and feel-good measures to action.

        “If we don't do something to bring these things to the streets then I will quit. And I mean soon,” he said. “I can find better ways to use my time than sitting around talking.”

        Co-chairman Ross Love said he shares the Rev. Mr. Lynch's thirst for quick action and did not want to rebut his statements. However, Mr. Love said Cincinnatians should not expect problems that have been ignored for more than 20 years to be solved in one summer.

        “Anybody who expects these problems to be solved in five or six months is kidding themselves,” Mr. Love said. “I'd like to see more get done. It's easy to talk about, but it's hard to do.”

        Mr. Love said it takes considerable planning, organization, resources and support from all people affected to bring about substantial change. He also acknowledged that the question, “What has CAN done?” is a legitimate one.

        “We haven't done a very good job of getting the word out about what we've been up to and that's our fault,” Mr. Love said. “Our six action teams have been hard at work putting together initiatives that will bring about substantial and meaningful change.”

        Among CAN's several dozen initiatives under way and in the works are:

        • A program designed to create cultural change in the police department. Officers would receive training on how to appropriately interact with African-Americans and eliminate stereotypes and presumptions.

        • A program designed to create cultural change in the community. Citizens would take responsibility for identifying people who exhibit criminal behavior. Citizens would encourage changes in behavior or turn in the perpetrators to police.

        • A program dealing with juveniles in the court system.The court system would be put into communities. Magistrates would get input from community members and ministers when handling juvenile offenders. This would also incorporate a diversion program in which judges could give juvenile offenders productive alternatives to criminal sentences and criminal records.

        • Encouraging truant officers to work with police to make sure children are in school and tell their parents and return them when they are not.

        • More police-community relations programs that place officers in schools, clinics, churches and recreation centers.

        • Creating a more credible and effective police review process. One that not just grants subpoena power, but one that is credible with people and police.

        • Working with the state legislature on programs designed to eliminate disparities between the punishment for crimes that occur in black communities and equally bad crimes that occur in white ones. For example, in Ohio, penalties for using crack cocaine (more common in African-American communities) are stiffer than for powder cocaine (more common in white communities).

        • Working with the Ohio Supreme Court to help Cincinnati become the lead city in implementing recommendations from a report it did a year ago on disparities in the justice system.

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