Here’s an incident involving the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) and Tom Streicher that most residents probably haven’t heard about.
Sometime between midnight and 10 a.m. on the day after Valentine’s Day, Streicher fired a shotgun through the front window of Seventh Street News, an adult bookstore, while he was on-duty. Official documents in the case indicate Streicher fired five separate shotgun blasts of deer slugs at the store, shattering four windows and two doors and causing $1,500 in damage.
If you’re unfamiliar with the incident, it might be because it involved Detective Sgt. Thomas H. Streicher Sr., father of the current police chief, and happened in 1971. After an internal investigation, the elder Streicher was temporarily suspended from the department for “failure of good behavior.”
At least the sergeant faced some discipline for his bizarre outburst. In more modern times, incidents of misconduct by high-ranking police supervisors rarely seem to have consequences.
In fact, when a supervisor does face discipline it raises questions about motivation and whether there’s unequal treatment depending on whom Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. likes and whom he doesn’t.
We’ve written before about the latest blow-up in the department, when Streicher last month essentially demoted his longtime No. 2 man, Assistant Police Chief Richard Janke, after Janke allegedly was rude to another assistant chief in a meeting. Streicher also issued a written reprimand and asked for an administrative hearing into the incident.
Interestingly, the police dispute is connected to the March death of 13-year-old Esme Kenney, a Winton Hills girl killed by a convicted sex offender. We’ll get to that shortly.
Streicher said the Janke incident was part of a pattern of insubordinate behavior. But noting that no such incidents have been documented, the police union has filed a grievance against Streicher on Janke’s behalf. If successful, Janke would be restored to his former position.
“In 10 years of working as an assistant police chief under Chief Streicher, Janke has never been served with a written performance review by Chief Streicher,” the grievance states. “Additionally, Janke’s personnel jacket shows that Janke has never been served with disciplinary action and has no negative evaluation supplement log entries.”
This is true: CityBeat examined Janke’s personnel file in summer 2008 after hearing about tension between Janke and the chief. It contained virtually nothing about the 29-year veteran. Peculiar.
Slipshod oversight in the department is nothing new, as the hot-tempered Streicher seems to manage based on personal whim and perceived slights. For the chief to chastise Janke for being rude is like Madonna blasting Britney Spears for wearing skimpy clothes and lip-synching.
There’s the time in fall 2006 when a red-faced Streicher abruptly appeared at The Cincinnati Enquirer’s offices and yelled at editors about their allegedly biased coverage. He went to the newspaper just after the city manager made him apologize to a North Avondale woman whose husband had been murdered.
The Enquirer that week had reported the chief’s comments about the incident, callous remarks that offended many residents and prompted a large City Hall protest.
In 2005 a federal judge ruled the CPD had violated the Collaborative Agreement, the settlement of a racial profiling lawsuit that called for numerous police reforms. The ruling came after Streicher blocked access to a court-appointed monitoring team, questioned the credentials of the team’s former police investigators and kicked them out of police headquarters in a snit.
Four years earlier, in 2001, Streicher temporarily withdrew all Cincinnati police from an FBI Violent Crimes Task Force after the FBI investigated why six local SWAT team members fired bean bag ammunition at a reportedly peaceful crowd after Timothy Thomas’ funeral (see “Firing on Children,” issue of April 19, 2001).
Janke’s no angel, either.
In spring 2006 he went to an Over-the-Rhine business and yelled at the owner, who had helped form a Citizens on Patrol unit there. Janke kicked the businessman off the patrol after the man publicly welcomed news that the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office would begin patrolling the neighborhood, a move initially opposed by Streicher and police supervisors.
Back in summer 2001, just as a group began marching from Mount Adams to downtown to protest police brutality, Janke made the following comment to an organizer and within earshot of a reporter: “We’re just here to ensure that all you law-abiding citizens don’t do anything illegal. Because if you were to do something illegal, then we just want to be clear that we are prepared to whack you and take you out if necessary.”
In truth, Streicher’s and Janke’s past antics often seemed to feed off each other.
There are two major problems with this type of misbehavior.
First, no one is above the law — and that especially includes police supervisors. When top brass gets away with misconduct, bad behavior or breaking the rules, it sends a message to rank-and-file officers that such actions are tolerated in the organization; worse, it fosters resentment among cops who have seen those outside of the inner circle sanctioned for similar violations.
Secondly, CPD has more than 1,000 sworn officers and about 300 non-sworn civilian personnel. The vast majority are professional and do their jobs well. When the bad apples act up, it gives the entire department a black eye in some people’s minds.
Streicher probably will retire within two years, and some police sources believe he’s trying to promote his friends in the department so one of them can be chosen as his successor.
The issue that caused the flare-up between Streicher and Janke was the creation of a “sex offender working group” at City Council’s request, after Kenney was abducted while jogging and murdered by Anthony Kirkland almost two months ago. A Westwood group also had complained about eight registered sex offenders living in a single apartment building in their neighborhood.
During a meeting of the police working group, the union grievance states, Assistant Police Chief Vince Demasi had asserted that the county Sheriff’s Office is responsible for tracking sex offenders. He added that Cincinnati Police didn’t have the time or resources to get involved.
Here’s what the union complaint states: “(Assistant Chief) Demasi said that citizens should be told that most sex offenders victimize only people they know. (Assistant Chief) Demasi said, therefore, citizen fears are not realistic and citizens should be provided with accurate information. Regarding City Council expectations, (Assistant Chief) Demasi said that he does not ‘kowtow to politicians.’
“Janke asked (Assistant Chief) Demasi if he ‘kowtowed’ to community members who requested and expected service. The … exchange ended.”
Streicher said nothing at the meeting about the exchange or in two subsequent encounters with Janke. Two days later, though, he reprimanded Janke after first publicly releasing a memo about his punishment.
There are plenty of examples about arrogant and cocky behavior among CPD’s top brass, and all the in-fighting certainly doesn’t enhance its service to the public.
It’s spring now, and maybe it’s time the mayor and city manager do a little house cleaning in the ranks — starting at the top.
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