Thursday, February 20, 2003

Middletown to study police review panel



By Michael D. Clark
The Cincinnati Enquirer

MIDDLETOWN - City leaders are skeptical about the need for a citizens police review committee - prompted by a church official's suggestion this month - but agreed to study the issue.

Bishop Rudolph Pringle, of the Apostolic Faith Church in Trotwood near Dayton, recently proposed such a citizens committee to Middletown City Council members, though the 74-year-old resident said he had no interest in being a member.

Pringle, a resident of Middletown for 66 years, said his suggestion did not reflect any allegations he had of police misconduct, but was simply a proactive approach. Moreover, he argued that such a committee of private citizens would be useful to police by allowing independent investigations that could also reveal unwarranted allegations of police misconduct.

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," said Pringle, who complained that his suggestion had been mischaracterized by some on council as a complaint of inappropriate police activity.

But Police Chief Bill Becker told City Council during its Tuesday evening meeting such a citizens group is unnecessary.

Ron Olson, city manager, said that while larger cities may have a need for such an oversight committee, Middletown does not. He cited recent police statistics that tracked misconduct and excessive force investigations - by police officials - that found most complaints to be unsubstantiated.

Becker emphasized that police misbehavior should be immediately reported to a police supervisor or him personally.

But while Mayor David Schiavone and other council members agreed, they nevertheless moved to study the issue further by assigning it to a council subcommittee.

In other action, the City Council also unanimously approved the appointments of 10 new trustees to the 12-member Middletown Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

It which plans to work more closely with the Warren County CVB in cross-promoting special events and tourist attractions in the Middletown and western Warren County area.

More than a half-dozen of Middletown's hotels are within Warren County's western border and Schiavone said the city bureau's main, initial thrust will be to link with the Warren County CVB.

"It's a show of regional cooperation for the city to move positively into the future," he said of the new board, which has an annual budget of $170,000. "You just can't put up fences around your borders like we used to."

Shirley Bonekemper, executive director of the Warren County CVB, said, "I agree with his approach to regionalism. Most of Middletown's hotels are in Warren County and we're eager to work closely with them in marketing tourist attractions in our county and Middletown."

Dick Boyea, general manager of the 120-unit Ramada Inn at the Interstate 75 and Ohio 122 interchange, also welcomed the new cooperation, saying it's long overdue.

"We've kind of been left out in no man's land out here. I feel it's needed," said Boyea, who is one of the new Middletown CVB trustees appointed by the council and whose hotel is within Middletown's city borders in Warren County.

E-mail mclark@enquirer.com




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