Wednesday, December 19, 2001

Webster pledges advocacy

Outgoing Fangman says he will still work with FOP

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A veteran Cincinnati detective who captured the police union presidency Monday by 13 votes pledged alongside his high-profile predecessor Tuesday to continue spirited advocacy for the police division.

        Police Spec. Roger Webster, a cop since 1976, defeated two veteran officers Monday after earning 301 votes for the top post of the Fraternal Order of Police Queen City Lodge #69.

[photo] Spec. Roger Webster (foreground) will take over as president of the Cincinnati Fraternal Order of Police from Keith Fangman (background). The men appeared at a press conference at the FOP lodge Tuesday.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        He succeeds Keith Fangman, a popular two-term leader who stepped down after becoming a national figure during and after the April riots.

        District 4 Sgt. Harry Roberts received 288 votes and District 5 Officer George Pille had 175.

        More than two-thirds of the 1,010-officer police division — 683 officers — voted.

        Spec. Webster works in the division's Personal Crimes Unit. The union is the bargaining agent for division officers.

        “I am not Keith Fangman. I am not even going to try to be Keith Fangman,” Spec. Webster said Tuesday at a press conference at the FOP lodge hall with Officer Fangman. “I am going to be Roger Webster. I will be 100 percent FOP. If I have to scream and stand and jump up and down, I will defend our officers.”

        Spec. Webster ran on a platform of “experience counts.” He has served as a union trustee for 10 years, as grievance committee chairman since 1997 and an executive board member for 10 years.

        He pledged Tuesday to work with City Council members to foster better police-community relations. He also plans to talk with Police Chief Tom Streicher about officers' schedules, the biggest complaint he heard while campaigning.

        Officer Fangman, who plans to work as a street cop in Over-the-Rhine, said Tuesday he will not be out of the mix. He plans to work closely with Spec. Webster in resolving issues such as the current negotiations with plaintiffs in a federal racial profiling lawsuit against the city.

   Age: 46.
Colerain Township; born and raised in Price Hill.
Married 19 years to Audrey Webster; two sons, ages 16 and 15.
   Education: Graduate of Elder High School; earned associate's degree in police science from University of Cincinnati, 1976.
   Proudest case: Arrested a rapist in 1980 the same night the man pulled a downtown Cincinnati Bell worker into an alley and sexually assaulted her.
        “Any police critic who had the notion that I was going to go off into the sunset is sadly mistaken,” Officer Fangman said.

        The past year has been one of the most tumultuous for the police division. Since 1995, 18 people have died in confrontations with police. All but one of the 18 were African-American. The 15th death, of Timothy Thomas in April, sparked the worst riots here since 1968 and drew national attention to the division and city.

        A Department of Justice investigation of the division began shortly after the riots. In a 23-page report released in October, federal investigators found the division riddled with problems in everything from the way officers use force to the way they respond to citizen complaints.

        But Spec. Webster maintained Tuesday the division has nothing to hide, and said he wasn't troubled by the feds' findings.

        “Bring the Justice Department on,” he said. “They have looked and what did they find? I haven't really seen the report. I have seen bits and pieces of it. They really haven't found anything, to me, that's bad in the police division.”

        Spec. Webster grew up with Chief Streicher, who lived a couple blocks away from him in Price Hill, and the two played baseball together as children. The chief's late father, Tom Sr. also a Cincinnati officer, coached Spec. Webster in Knothole in grade school.

        “I have known (Spec. Webster) for probably 40 years,” Chief Streicher said Tuesday. “I won't have any problem dealing with Roger.”

        City and community leaders were enthused Tuesday about the prospect of working with Spec. Webster, who has a penchant for addressing folks as “Ma'am” or “Sir.”

        “I look forward to meeting him,” Mayor Charlie Luken said. “I think we are all tired of fighting. I certainly look forward to a better day with the Fraternal Order of Police.”

        The Rev. Damon Lynch III, leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front, echoed those comments and said: “I wish Keith Fangman well in spending time with his wife and family. I look forward to continuing the work on police-community relations with the new head of the FOP.”

        Jane Prendergast contributed to this report.


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