Saturday, July 27, 2002

Police graduation a day of celebration, lessons

Chief, Lemmie stress integrity

By Jane Prendergast,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's newest police officers report to work starting Sunday after a graduation ceremony heavy with lessons about honesty and respect.

[photo] After being sworn in as Cincinnati Police officers, Christian Campo (from left), Dewayne Carter, Jody Dillinger, Derrick Edwards and Thomas Finley celebrate Friday during graduation ceremonies.
(Glenn Hartong photo)
| ZOOM |
        After 23 weeks as recruits, the 33 became commissioned Cincinnati police officers as of mid-afternoon Friday. They threw their white hats in the air, then collected them to pose for pictures.

        The celebration came after speeches about doing the right thing. Chief Tom Streicher spoke about integrity at a time when the department's only African-American assistant chief is under criminal investigation for his explanation about damage to his city-owned car. He put Lt. Col. Ron Twitty on paid leave two weeks ago because he questioned whether the assistant chief told the truth.

        Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen is reviewing the evidence and may take it before a grand jury. At the heart of the Twitty issue, the chief said, is honesty.

        “You will be exposed to things most people don't even want to know about,” he told the new officers. “Treat people with courtesy and respect.”

   The investigation into Cincinnati Police Lt. Col. Ron Twitty is now in the hands of Hamilton County Prosecutor Michael K. Allen, who may ask a special grand jury to determine whether the assistant chief lied about damage to his city car.
   Sheriff Simon L. Leis Jr. handed the two-week investigation over Friday.
   On Thursday, Mr. Allen asked a common pleas judge to impanel a special grand jury. Mr. Allen's request did not specifically state the purpose of the grand jury, but said the creation of a new panel was in the “public interest.” Unlike regular grand juries, special grand juries do not expire.
    Mr. Allen said in a statement that his review of the Twitty case “will not be subject to any artificial timeline but will last as long as is necessary to ensure reaching a fair and impartial decision.”
    Police Chief Tom Streicher had turned the case over to the sheriff July 12.
        He said to behave so that everyone they come in contact with leaves the situation able to maintain his dignity. It was his second speech about dignity and respect in two days. He preached to them during their badge ceremony Thursday about how police officers are the only people in society allowed to take away another person's freedom. He made them promise they'd look into a mirror every day before work and promise themselves to make all their actions honorable and invoke their police powers only with the “very best of intentions.”

        One of the badges went to Officer Denise Bruns, a 34-year-old former McDonald's manager in Price Hill who wanted to be a police officer since she was a little girl. When she was 9 and growing up in Delhi Township, her brother made her a pretend Delhi Police ID card. She still has it.

        “I've just wanted to do it all my life,” she said, posing for pictures with her family. “When I used to hear the sirens, I would run up and see what the officers were doing, and I just thought, "Wow.”'

        City Manager Valerie Lemmie also stressed respect and honesty. She addressed the new officers, referring to “many currents swirling around the department now” and said she needed their commitment to be “change agents” as the agency continues to reform after “some of the city's most trying times.”

        She swore them in, asking them to perform their duties with fairness and impartiality and told their families the new officers would get her respect and support if they behave ethically, honestly and with integrity.

        “Use your authority wisely,” she said, “with discretion, intelligence and compassion.”

        Derrick Edwards' family is certain he'll heed that advice. He follows his mother, Vinnie Edwards, onto the force.

        “It was a long road for him,” said his aunt, Yvonne Farris. “But he's got the instinct.”

        The recruits stay with field training officers for about three months before working alone. They remain on probation for a year.


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