Thursday, June 19, 2003

Top police watchdog steps down

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The executive director of Cincinnati's new police watchdog agency has resigned, just after releasing his investigation of the most serious police incident of his brief career.

Nathanael L. Ford submitted his resignation to City Manager Valerie Lemmie on Wednesday.

"Family priorities will not allow me to devote the time and attention necessary to pursue and successfully achieve the mission of the Citizen Complaint Authority," he wrote.

Ford sent his first major investigation to the authority's board Monday, clearing Officer Michael Schulte of any wrongdoing in the Feb. 8 fatal shooting of Andre Sherrer, a 34-year-old burglary suspect in Northside.

His report said Schulte "properly engaged a felony suspect in foot pursuit after observing a felony in progress" and that he "fired his service weapon in self-defense after enduring initial strikes on the head by a blunt object capable of inflicting serious physical harm or death."

According to police reports, Schulte responded to a burglar alarm at 4:07 a.m. at Legends Sports Wear at 1569 Chase Ave. and saw a man - later identified as Sherrer - leaving the store through a broken plate glass window. The officer chased the man on foot and caught up with him in an alley off Hamilton Avenue, where a struggle ensued.

During the struggle, Sherrer struck Schulte on the head with the officer's nightstick and Schulte fired several rounds at Sherrer. Sherrer died as result of multiple gunshot wounds.

The authority's report further determined that Schulte "reasonably believed that he was protecting himself from death or serious physical injury" during the struggle and that "it is entirely reasonably that seven rounds could have been fired prior to change in action by Mr. Sherrer."

The Hamilton County prosecutor had already cleared Schulte.

It was the authority's first ruling on a police shooting since its inception in January.

Ford's hiring later that month came after months of intensive interviews with candidates, with Lemmie allowing lawyers for the Fraternal Order of Police and the Cincinnati Black United Front to have "veto power" over her appointment.

Lemmie told City Council members Wednesday that she did not know how she would replace Ford, but she named Daniel Baker - the first interim director of the authority - to the same position.

The executive director supervises a team of full-time investigators who probe allegations of excessive force and other police misconduct. The director reports to a seven-member civilian board appointed by the mayor.

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