It took seven months to investigate, and now it’s taking almost as long for Cincinnati’s police chief to make up his mind.
An internal investigation into whether Lt. Col. Michael Cureton, an assistant police chief, improperly offered police services in exchange for free tickets to a Jamie Foxx concert in summer 2009 finally was completed in March. It concluded that allegations Cureton actively solicited concert promoters for tickets couldn’t be substantiated, but found he did violate police rules about accepting gifts or any items of value when he picked up 40 concert tickets, valued at more than $2,700.
A department spokeswoman said last spring that Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. would review the report and decide what — if any — discipline was warranted.
Apparently, it’s taking Streicher awhile to read and comprehend the dozen or so pages. Some 146 days later (as of this writing) and counting, he still hasn’t decided what to do about Cureton.
Here’s hoping that Streicher never has to grapple with any private sector deadlines once he retires next spring. Something tells me he wouldn’t fare so well at FedEx or Domino’s Pizza.
Just finding out that the chief is either slow or indecisive is a major undertaking, given the close-lipped nature of the Cincinnati Police Department.
CityBeat first checked on June 9 about whether a decision had been made, and inquired again on July 29. At that time, police staffers replied that the internal investigation report had been given to us in March. After pointing out that wasn’t the question asked, the newspaper finally learned on Aug. 16 that the matter still was pending.
“There is no disposition regarding any discipline per this case currently,” read the e-mail from a police lieutenant.
That’s 18 days to get an 11-word answer. What’s taking so long? We’re left to speculate that maybe Streicher is trying to negotiate a deal with Cureton to retire early, instead of facing any discipline. After all, that’s what happened to the last assistant police chief who was African American and happened to find himself in trouble with the department.
People with long memories will remember that Lt. Col. Ron Twitty was suspended by Streicher in summer 2002 for allegedly filing a false report about an overnight hit-and-run accident involving a city-issued vehicle, causing $3,300 in damage. Streicher believed Twitty had a fender bender and tried to cover up the incident.
Twitty denied the allegation but later resigned under threat of criminal indictment. He’s now the police chief in tiny Lincoln Heights, just north of the city.
Back then, Streicher suspended Twitty without consulting the city manager, mayor or City Council, most of whom said they disagreed with the decision when they learned of it through the media. Critics suspected Streicher was taking Twitty out of the running to succeed him, clearing the path for the white, male assistant chiefs.
More recently, Streicher abruptly moved Lt. Col. Cindy Combs — the only female assistant chief — to a new assignment with less responsibility. She has filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the first step in eventually filing a federal lawsuit.
Combs, who has more than 30 years’ of experience with the department, was transferred after she complained internally about discrimination.
That leaves the three remaining assistant chiefs — Vincent Demasi, Richard Janke and James Whalen, all of whom are white males — relatively unscathed.
Meanwhile, as all of this festers, our mayor is busy issuing proclamations about the Boy Scouts’ Soapbox Derby and traveling again to China, and City Council spends its time bickering about where food trucks should be located and having its members campaign for other elective offices.
Cincinnati’s insular police department only began hiring more blacks and females after hard-fought lawsuits in the 1980s and ‘90s. A federal consent decree now mandates that each recruit class be at least 34 percent African-American and 23 percent female.
Before the legal battles and consent decrees, in 1980, the department had just 69 black officers and nine female officers out of 938 sworn personnel. Those numbers have vastly improve in recent years but critics say those officers now face a glass ceiling for promotions, stymied by an entrenched old-boys network.
Going back to the Cureton incident, he has denied any wrongdoing and has said he thought the tickets were a perk for being selected as “Family of the Year” at the annual Black Family Reunion event, which was underway at the time.
CPD investigators presented the case to the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office in October 2009 to consider possible criminal charges. Three months later, Prosecutor Joe Deters declined prosecution and recommended it be handled administratively. It was nearly another two months before the internal report was publicly issued. Curiouser and curiouser.
Regardless if Cureton is guilty of the rule violation, it shouldn’t take this long to resolve the issue. If he’s guilty, suspend him for a few days or reprimand him, but make sure the discipline fits the offense. If he’s innocent, clear him and move on.
With Streicher now on record as retiring early next year, the mayor and City Council should remember that voters approved a charter amendment in 2001 that allows them to hire police chiefs from outside current ranks.
The amendment’s driving purpose was to bring fresh perspectives to the police department and provide more accountability for its leaders, rather than relying on the same old internal system that’s provided lackluster results.
Because City Hall and the police department often have trouble understanding simple concepts, or at least feign ignorance, let’s make it clear: The city manager needs to pressure Streicher into making a decision on Cureton now, and City Council needs to begin the process of searching for a new police chief.
There, that isn’t so difficult, is it?
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