Saturday, July 13, 2002

City suspends assistant chief


At issue is his honesty about police report of car wreck

By Jane Prendergast, jprendergast@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's highest ranking black police officer — a highly regarded assistant chief — was suspended with pay Friday after allegations that he faked a police report about a wreck that damaged his city car.

[photo] Police Chief Tom Streicher (third from left) announces that Lt. Col. Ron Twitty was suspended with pay after allegations that he made a false police report.
(Tony Jones photo)
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        Lt. Col. Ron Twitty was forced to give up his badge and gun Friday morning after a meeting with Chief Tom Streicher, with whom he has worked for almost three decades. The chief would not give details of the July 4 accident because it's under investigation, but he confirmed the core issue is whether the assistant chief was honest about what happened.

        He would not speculate on what disciplinary action might be taken against the first black ever to make it to the rank of lieutenant colonel. That will be determined, he said, after the investigation is finished by the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

        The chief asked deputies to step in to make sure the investigation was objective. Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen will review the case to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.

        But honesty is a key issue for Chief Streicher, particularly since he stood in City Council chambers in April and reiterated the department's policy on truthfulness. Any officer found to have lied, he said, could expect to be fired.

[photo] Scotty Johnson, president of the Sentinels Police Association, speaks out after Friday's announcement about Lt. Col. Twitty.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        He met with Lt. Col. Twitty, 51, on Friday morning and told him he was being put on administrative leave. He said the assistant chief “stayed on a very professional level with me. At no time did the conversation deteriorate.

        “He understands that this is a business decision,” Chief Streicher said. “I can say to you that I thanked him for his professionalism after I suspended him.”

        The Rev. Damon Lynch III said he spoke with Lt. Col. Twitty later Friday.

        “He's fine,” he said. “He's a strong Christian man who knows he's done nothing wrong.”

        The stripping of the 29-year veteran's police powers surprised many of the more than 1,000 officers who work under him, shocked community leaders and drew sharp criticism from the Sentinels, the department's black officers' group.

Lt. Col.  Twitty
Lt. Col. Twitty
        Mayor Charlie Luken called Lt. Col. Twitty a longtime friend of the city's who “in many ways, was the soul of the city in April a year ago,” referring to the April 2001 riots. Then and since, Lt. Col. Twitty has often been the face of the department at many meetings with community groups. He's known for walking into most any place and stopping to give out hugs.

        “I wish him the best,” the mayor said, “and will stand with him until proven otherwise.”

        Vice Mayor Alicia Reece has known the assistant chief since she was a little girl and has always known him to “play by the book.”

        “He is an example of someone who can come from the community and worked his way up through the ranks,” she said. “And when you want the police and the community to come together, you go get Ron Twitty.”

        Keith Fangman, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, worked for then-Capt. Twitty when he started with the department.

        “It was a pleasure to work for him,” he said. “And as FOP president, I could always count on his help resolving just about any type of issue within the department. I think he's a good man and I genuinely hope that he comes out of this OK.”

        Sentinels President Scotty Johnson questioned why an accident that caused damage to a city-owned Taurus would prompt Chief Streicher to hold a press conference and publicly embarrass a loyal cop while investigations into the deaths of black men by Cincinnati officers drag on for months. He was referring to the internal investigation still pending into the November 2000 death in custody of Roger Owensby Jr. Police officials have said for more than a month that it would be finished soon.

        “I've got a problem with that,” Spc. Johnson said. “I think that stinks to the high heaven. This is city property here when we've got black men who have died in the street.”

        The accident happened early July 4, Lt. Col. Twitty reported, and was a hit-and-run outside his house in Bond Hill. Officers responded, however, and found no debris at the scene that would have indicated the car had been hit there. Chief Streicher said it was a lack of evidence there that prompted officers to start thinking the assistant chief's story might not be accurate.

        He also said Lt. Col. Twitty never reported to him that he'd had an accident, which the chief said was contrary to policy.

       



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