Tuesday, January 15, 2002

Evendale sticks by Roach hiring

Village won't dump officer despite protests

By Jane Prendergast and David Eck
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Evendale Mayor Doug Lohmeier confirms the hiring of Stephen Roach as police chief Gary Foust listens.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        EVENDALE — Officer Stephen Roach will report to work here a week from today despite protests from some residents. Mayor Doug Lohmeier announced Monday that he will take no action that would prevent the Cincinnati officer from working in the Hamilton County village. He said he came to the decision after much soul-searching and praying.

        “Council members and myself have given this issue great consideration and have decided to stand behind the ordinance hiring Officer Roach,” Mayor Lohmeier said. “I urge all Evendale residents to trust their elected officials' decisions.”

        Officer Roach, he said, “poses no threat to anyone.”

        Some residents have spent more than a week passing out fliers, holding meetings and asking officials to change their decision.

        Many of the opponents are African-Americans who say their community leaders showed disrespect for them by hiring the officer whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Over-the-Rhine in April touched off the worst racial violence Cincinnati has seen since 1968.

        Dr. Randy Cox, one of two physicians who helped organize the residents who opposed the hire, said Monday afternoon the opponents would not make a statement until today. They plan to hold a press conference.

        Other objectors did not return phone calls for comment. Neither did officials.

        Sgt. Brian Ibold, who supervised Officer Roach in Cincinnati's District 1 and testified on his behalf during his trial, said he was glad for his friend that Evendale stuck to its decision.

        “He scored well on the test, and he deserves that job,” he said. “He will be an exceptional officer out there.”

        Neither Mayor Lohmeier nor any of the council members flanking him would answer questions after he read the brief statement Monday morning. The mayor also canceled the remaining discussion sessions he had set up with residents, though he initially said he would meet with all who made appointments.

        Further meetings, he said Monday, “will only further confirm what has been communicated to me.”

        A week ago, the mayor and Village Solicitor Christian Schaefer told residents they would do legal research to see if there were any ways to rescind the job offer without exposing the village to a lawsuit. But Mr. Schaefer has said repeatedly that he didn't think he would find any.

        Bill Cress, a 20-year Evendale resident who supports the hiring, applauded Monday's decision.

        “As far as I'm concerned, (Officer Roach) should have the job,” Mr. Cress said. “I think there's a very small minority of people who are opposed. It'll blow over.”

        Several objectors, including Eric Abercrumbie, director of the University of Cincinnati's African-American Cultural and Research Center, said they believed the hiring would cause some black families to move out of the upscale village.

        Of the village's 3,090 residents, 266 are African-Americans, according to the 2000 census.

        Officer Roach, 27, remains a member of the Cincinnati Police Department until Monday. He has been using vacation and compensatory time since he submitted his resignation Jan. 4. He was acquitted in September on misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and obstruction of official business. He said he feared for his life when he shot Timothy Thomas, who was fleeing from police.

        Lt. Kurt Byrd, Cincinnati police spokesman, said the administration there wishes Officer Roach luck as he leaves Cincinnati to continue his law-enforcement career.

        Sunday story: Roach hiring divides Evendale

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