Friday, October 19, 2001

Feds return in police probe

Focus includes use of force, reporting

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Federal lawyers studying Cincinnati's police department were back this week, still fine-tuning their recommendations.

        Three weeks after announcing that local officials were cooperating to make changes, they're still talking about the same general topics — use-of-force policies and reporting, training and supervision. But this visit brought a few more specifics.

        Among them: defining what kind of contact constitutes a use of force; and changing wording in the division's handbook.

        “It's nothing that's going to dramatically change the direction of our use-of-force policies,” Chief Tom Streicher said.

        He and Greg Baker, acting safety director, met Wednesday and Thursday with their attorneys and Justice officials. City Manager John Shirey also was briefed.

        Chief Streicher said the discussions continued to focus on cooperation between the federal and local officials, as U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft had promised. That is in sharp contrast to the attitude of his predecessor, under whom cities such as Pittsburgh reported they felt pounded by Justice mandates.

        Mayor Charlie Luken asked for the review after the April 7 fatal shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed black man who was running from police when he was shot by Officer Stephen Roach. The worst riots Cincinnati had seen since 1968 followed the killing. The officer was acquitted last month.

        DOJ spokesman Dan Nelson would not comment on the meetings here or on how long the investigation would continue.

        “I can't characterize a time frame,” he said, “or when to expect closure of this review.”

        Mr. Shirey did not return calls for comment. Mr. Luken did not meet with the federal lawyers.

        Chief Streicher said he expects some sort of a more final list of federal suggestions “in the very near future.”

        After that, he said, he and other officials will meet with attorneys to determine whether there's any more explaining they can do about particular concerns.

        Then, he said, he expects to talk with the federal lawyers again.

        “None of this is outside what I consider to be very important things for us to do,” the chief said. “It is all right along the lines of what we already are doing.”

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