Wednesday, January 23, 2002

Roach on job in Evendale

Protesters miss new officer's arrival

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EVENDALE — Officer Stephen Roach reported for duty here Tuesday morning, welcomed by police officials and supportive citizens — but no protesters.

        Wearing a baseball cap and a University of Michigan sweat shirt, Officer Roach was dropped off at the municipal building by an Evendale police cruiser at 11 a.m. He was greeted by Police Chief Gary Foust and Lt. William Goller.

[photo] Stephen Roach exits an Evendale police car as he arrives about 11 a.m. for his first day of work Tuesday. Protesters had left by then.
(Michael Snyder photo)
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        “Welcome aboard, sir,” Lt. Goller said as he held the door open for a smiling Officer Roach.

        Officer Roach declined to speak with reporters as he entered the building.

        Also on hand were former Mayor Don Apking and resident Leon Howell, who carried a sign saying: “Welcome to Evendale, Officer Roach.”

        By the time the 27-year-old ex-Cincinnati police officer arrived, the mood outside village hall was warm and welcoming — a sharp contrast to demonstrations that occurred there earlier Tuesday morning and on Sunday.

        About 30 protesters had assembled at the village hall beginning before 6 a.m Tuesday, anticipating Officer Roach's arrival. But their permit allowed them to stay only until 8 a.m. Joining them for the first time were three counterprotesters, including Mr. Howell, who waited five hours to shake Officer Roach's hand.

        “You realize how many people are for this (hiring)?” asked Mr. Howell, 66, a 37-year Evendale resident. “He was found not guilty. He was doing a job. Would any of these (protesters) chase someone with 14 warrants down an alley? Probably not.”

[photo] Opponents and supporters of Officer Stephen Roach gather in front of Evendale village hall Tuesday.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
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        About 100 people in this village of about 3,000 residents have objected to the hiring because of the controversy that swirled around Officer Roach, whose fatal shooting of an unarmed black man during a foot chase last April sparked the worst riots Cincinnati had seen in 30 years.

        “Officer Roach is not welcome in my neighborhood, and we don't want him to come,” said Dr. Randy Cox, 43, a leader of a group of residents opposing the hire. “This has divided our neighborhoods, and that's never happened in Evendale before.”

        But many residents went out of their way Tuesday to show their appreciation of the embattled officer. At least six bouquets of flowers congratulating him on his new job were delivered to the police department, and some neighborsplan to give him and his wife gift certificates to restaurants.

        Mr. Apking's wife, Sue, dropped off a pot of chili for dinner, and several workers from Riverfront Steel in Evendale went to the police department on their lunch hour to meet Officer Roach and pledge their support.

        “He hasn't been able to get anything done, just based on the outpouring of support from the community,” Chief Foust said. “It's been good for Steve to see the majority of the people are very much in support of him.”

        Officer Roach, whose uniforms aren't in yet, will complete routine paperwork for new employees and perform administrative duties for his first week, Chief Foust said. Then he will be assigned to a field training officer, who is a 12-year veteran of the department, for at least eight weeks of training.

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