Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Groups list demands in wake of acquittals




By Randy Tucker
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Frustrated by recent events — including acquittal of two Cincinnati police officers accused of assaulting a black man who died while in custody — a coalition of community groups Tuesday issued demands they say are necessary to bring justice to Cincinnati.

        “We believe that civil liberties have been diminished and that lives have been taken unjustifiably,” the Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front, said Tuesday outside the Hamilton County Courthouse.

        High on the list of demands is that Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen appoint a special prosecutor to retry Cincinnati Police Officer Robert Jorg on felony involuntary manslaughter charges in the death of Roger Owensby Jr.

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        Officer Jorg's trial on the felony charges ended this month with a hung jury. The same jury acquitted him of misdemeanor assault in the case.

        Mr. Allen said last week that there was no additional evidence to merit retrying the case, a position he affirmed Tuesday.

        He suggested that the coalition might be better served by focusing on problems within the black community rather than the decisions of the prosecutor's office.

        “It's interesting to me that they never call press conferences to tell the public what they're doing about the epidemic of black-on-black crime in Cincinnati,” Mr. Allen said. “We've had over 120 shootings since April. I guess that's not important to them.”

        The Black United Front, as well as local chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Urban League, are among more than a dozen groups that have signed onto the list of demands.

        In addition to retrying Officer Jorg, the coalition wants:

        • All parties involved in the Collaborative on Community- Police Relations, including the police union, to commit to a written agreement with federal authorities to implement U.S. Department of Justice recommendations for reforming the Cincinnati Police Division.

        • The U.S. Department of Justice to reverse its decision not to prosecute officers who fired beanbags into a crowd after the funeral of Timothy Thomas, whose shooting death April 7 by Cincinnati police officer Stephen Roach led to three days of rioting. The Department of Justice concluded that prosecutors would not have a reasonable chance of obtaining criminal convictions if the beanbag case went to trial.

        • City administrators to discipline officers Jorg, Roach and Patrick Caton — who was acquitted of misdemeanor assault in the death of Mr. Owensby — for allegedly using excessive force.

        City officials and Police Chief Thomas Streicher could not be reached for comment.

        • The courts to expedite civil-rights lawsuits filed by the families of Mr. Thomas, Mr. Owensby and others involved in the cases.

        “At this point, the community has zero faith in the system,” said Sheila Adams, president of the local chapter of the Urban League. “At least if there is some follow-through on these demands, the community will have some reason to hope.”

        The coalition did not threaten reprisal if the demands are not met. Instead, the group implored city and federal officials to “do the right thing.”

        Jackie Shropshire, a longtime community activist who runs the Queen City Boxing Club, said something must be done to cure the black community's resentment of the city's Police Division and political establishment.

        That anger, he said, has made the streets even more combustible than they were during the April riots.

        “Once you take hope from people, then there is a potential for self-destruction and destruction that exists all around you,” Mr. Shropshire said.

        If hope is not restored, he said: “This whole region is going to suffer.”

       



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