Sunday, June 02, 2002

Chief reinforces support of council,
black officers

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Chief Tom Streicher used to sit in City Council chambers and hear himself be called a racist, bigot, coverup artist. Lately, he holds court there instead.

        Most of the shouting has stopped. And council members can't say enough about how well he's shepherding the Cincinnati Police Department through new federal and city agreements to improve police-community relations.

        “The job is his for as long as he wants it,” Councilman John Cranley says.

        While some boycotters continue to call for his ouster, Chief Streicher is building support.

        Council members praised him after his presentation in March about the department's internal investigation of the shooting of Timothy Thomas, which led to last year's riots. The chief got Council's attention again last month when he brought 50 of his top-ranking officers to flank him during a controversy over alleged spitting on the police memorial during a march to mark Mr. Thomas' death.

        No such spitting occurred, the chief said — and “it's time for some of this silliness to stop.”

        A few people stood and clapped. And Council quickly and quietly dropped the push for a full spitting investigation.

        Councilman Jim Tarbell says with the “silliness” speech, the chief “went beyond being chief and toward becoming a civic leader. I think it was the strongest he's ever given.”

        Mayor Charlie Luken calls the chief a “straight-up guy” who's “been up front. He's open about the actions he takes. What more can people ask?”

        Scotty Johnson, president of the Sentinel Police Association, the black officers' group, says he, too, thinks the chief should stay.

        “The chief and I don't always agree,” he says, “but there's a mutual respect. And he's in a heckuva spot.”

        The bigger problems now, Spc. Johnson says, are the public “airheaded actions” of some individual officers. He was referring to the news last week that two officers admitted to having sex on duty with a woman and to allegations last month that two other officers took a man to Mount Airy Forest and left him there.

        “Those are the kinds of things that keep us divided from the community,” Spc. Johnson says.

        “But the chief can't control the actions of all his officers. That's a tough spot, to be honest with you, keeping 1,000-plus egos in order.”


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