Friday, February 08, 2002

Roach hiring could be voted on

Referendum drive pulls 219 signatures

By Jennifer Edwards
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        EVENDALE — More than 200 signatures have been filed with the village clerk for a November referendum to allow voters to decide whether Officer Stephen Roach remains on the police force.

        The petitions with 219 signatures, turned over Jan. 30 by a group of residents fighting Officer Roach's recent hiring, will be given to the Hamilton County Board of Elections Office on Monday for certification, Village Clerk Donna LeFevre said Thursday.

        Lawrence Hawkins Jr., an Evendale resident and attorney advising those challenging the hire, said they need about 150 signatures — 10 percent of the voter turnout in the last gubernatorial election — to qualify for a referendum.

        Meanwhile, Evendale Mayor Douglas Lohmeier said Thursday he is considering holding community forums soon to work out the controversy over the hire.

        Officer Roach, 27, whose fatal shooting of an unarmed but fleeing man sparked April's riots, quit the Cincinnati force last month and started with the Evendale Police Department Jan. 22.

        He is undergoing at least eight weeks of training and is doing “excellent,” said Police Chief Gary Foust.

        “He is going on patrol in a police car in uniform with a gun enforcing the laws in Evendale,” Chief Foust said. “That's what I hired him for.” Council members voted Jan. 3 to hire Officer Roach.A judge acquitted Officer Roach on charges of negligent homicide and obstructing official business.

        Council members have said they hired Officer Roach because he was the top candidate of 31 applicants.

        But about 200 people in this village of about 3,000 residents object because of the controversy around Officer Roach. They also are angry he was hired by emergency ordinance.

        Thursday's council meeting, the first one since the hiring, drew about 100 residents, 20 of whom addressed council. About half of them chastised village leaders for hiring an officer who still is under internal investigation from his agency and is the subject of a federal lawsuit for Mr. Thomas' death. Steve Jemison, 50, said to applause, “Your job is not to rebuild careers but rather to assure that all citizens in this multicultural community feel safe and valued.” said Steve Jemison, 50.

        Other residents said they were ashamed of the protests over Officer Roach.

        “I was embarrassed by the public display of racism and prejudice displayed by some of my neighbors,” Charles Sams, 61, told council. “I would like to thank you for not catering to outside voices and prejudices.”


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