Friday, February 7, 2003

Roach passes one-year trial

But critics in Evendale continue to monitor him

By Susan Vela
The Cincinnati Enquirer


EVENDALE - Officer Stephen Roach is patrolling village streets as a permanent full-time officer; and while city officials say they're pleased with his work, the group that opposed his hiring says it's keeping a watchful eye on him.

Roach's one-year probation period ended Jan. 21. The former Cincinnati police officer, whose hiring last year touched off an outcry among some residents, will earn $53,900 this year.

Village administrators say he deserves the money - as well as a fresh start - after refuting allegations made against him and demonstrating a real passion for police work.

"Throughout 2002, Officer Roach has been under a microscope unlike any other village employee. (But) he successfully completed his field-training program of 400 hours with very high performance marks," wrote Evendale Police Chief Gary Foust to Mayor Douglas Lohmeier in a document sealing Roach's full-time status.

Roach declined to comment for this story.

Concerned Citizens of Evendale, which organized to protest Roach's hiring, remains vigilant. Members say they are watching for any complaints against Roach, whose fatal 2001 shooting of an unarmed black man during a chase in Over-the-Rhine sparked Cincinnati's worst riots in decades.

"Please," said member Randy Cox when told about the chief's compliments for Roach. He refused further comment.

Roach's permanent status sealed a tumultuous year in Evendale. All village employees must undergo a one-year probation period, but Roach was further hampered by legal battles and protests about his hiring.

Roach's experience, confidence and zeal for police work steered him through the rough times, said the chief.

"It would have been very easy for him to not get into any confrontational situations," he said. But, "he believes in doing the right thing and going out and doing his job. It says a lot."

Roach's first arrest as an Evendale officer was a big one. He was one of two Evendale officers who captured a suspected bank robber soon after a Springdale bank was held up.

His attorneys had to fend off Concerned Citizens, which unsuccessfully attempted to have the Ohio Supreme Court force a referendum on his hiring.

Already acquitted of criminal charges, Roach was assigned desk duty after Cincinnati police released an internal affairs report that said he violated police procedures in the shooting death of Timothy Thomas.

Village administrators returned him to street patrol work, saying he had until the end of his probation year to clear his name and refute the findings.

The chief said Roach is a model police officer. In 2002, he issued more than 500 citations and led Evendale's 20 officers in arresting people for driving while intoxicated. His personnel file is filled with outstanding reviews and compliments from his fellow officers, and even people that he cited.

Council members said they have no regrets about welcoming Roach into the Evendale fold.

"There are a few residents who have tried to make life difficult for him but, as far as I know, things have gone smoothly," Councilwoman Catherine Hartman said.

"At some point, I expect him to be promoted if he continues to perform as he has in the past."

Mary Showalter was touched when Roach responded to her 911 call. Her husband, who has lung cancer, had fallen in the bathroom. He was "just very sweet to my husband," she said. "He was found not guilty. We have to back up the system we're under."

"He knows that he will always be scrutinized," said Bill Covell, the mayor's assistant. "That's his life. It wouldn't matter if it was in Evendale or if it was in Los Angeles."


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