Thursday, May 23, 2002

Former football player accuses city of coverup

Vinnie Clark: OMI report 'full of lies'

By Gregory Korte,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A former NFL player who claims he was the victim of racial profiling by Cincinnati police denounced a recent city investigation that exonerated the officers.

        Speaking Wednesday to City Council, Vinnie Clark said the report from the Office of Municipal Investigation was “full of lies and coverups.”

[photo] Terry Horton (left) and Vinnie Clark tell City Council members Wednesday that they were victims of racial profiling at the hands of Cincinnati police officers.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
        Mr. Clark's complaint was the first in a string of protesters who complained to City Council Wednesday that police reforms weren't moving quickly enough. Members of the Cincinnati Black United Front tore up copies of the historic racial-profiling settlement they had reached with the city last month.

        Among their complaints:

        • Their lawyers in the lawsuit hadn't been paid by the city.

        • Police Chief Tom Streicher hasn't been fired, and city officials still refuse to negotiate boycott demands.

        But Mr. Clark's complaint is the most recent grievance, after the city's police oversight agency issued a 29-page report last week. It found no evidence that police acted inappropriately in the Feb. 23, 2001, traffic stop.

        Mr. Clark and a passenger, Terry Horton, were leaving a downtown nightclub when police pulled them over. Police said they were acting on information from a bail bondsman that a wanted fugitive was seen at the nightclub driving a green GMC Yukon.

        Mr. Clark and Mr. Horton say police should have known they had the wrong men because they were taller and heavier than the man wanted by police, and hadn't been specifically identified.

        The two men say one of the officers pointed a shotgun at Mr. Clark's face and illegally searched the car.

        Their lawyer, Kenneth L. Lawson, said the city ignored key evidence in the case and did not interview the bail bondsman who supposedly gave the initial tip.

        A memo from City Manager Valerie Lemmie on Monday defended the OMI report against those criticisms, saying “OMI based its findings on a determination of what the officers knew at the time of the incident.”

        Mayor Charlie Luken said the OMI report was “one of the most thorough and professional reports I've seen.”

        “Mr. Clark is owed an apology. They got the wrong guy,” Mr. Luken said. “But the police were acting on information that he was an armed and dangerous fugitive, and they did it by the book. You know, police do the right thing more often than not.”

        Mr. Clark, an Ohio State cornerback and 1991 first-round draft pick by the Green Bay Packers, said he wasn't asking OMI to reopen the case, but would instead ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate.

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