Parents who couldn't get complaint forms July 8 from the North College Hill Police Department got them July 9 when they returned with members of the Cincinnati Black United Front.
A group of African-American parents say that police in North College Hill have used stun guns, chokeholds and excessive force on young teen-agers arrested for nonviolent offenses — and, they say, for behavior that isn't even a crime.
"Last week the children were running from a Doberman pinscher," says North College Hill resident Nicole Daugherty. "The children jumped on the hood of a car to get away from the dog, and they arrested them."
Daugherty says her 13-year-old daughter was charged with criminal damaging.
"I don't think it's fair," Daugherty says. "They should have talked to me. We could have worked this out if the car was damaged. They handcuffed her and took her up to the North College Hill Police Department."
Police officers harass black teens, according to Katrina Lockard.
"They've been harassing my kids since we moved in a year ago," she says.
"They choked my sons. They're calling our kids 'niggers' and 'niglets.' "
Trudy Stowers says police treat black kids as suspects.
"The white kids can congregate anyplace," she says. "If three or four black kids get together, the police come. Our children should be free to walk the streets when they want to. Instead they're being harassed."
Police Chief Paul Toth said he was unaware of the allegations until parents went to the police station July 9. Several people said they tried to file complaints the previous night but were rudely ordered to leave. Toth said he wasn't present on July 8.
"If things were so contested last night that they could not be done in a calm and peaceful manner, the sergeant might have asked people to come back at a later time," Toth says.
The parents returned the next night, this time with protest signs and support from the Black United Front (BUF). The parents had called the group that day asking for help, according to BUF spokeswoman Juleana Frierson.
The Rev. Damon Lynch III, BUF president, met with the parents July 9 and then joined them in a march to the police station.
Toth assured the group he wants to receive their complaints, drawing hoots of derision. One woman corrected Toth's description of police behavior the previous night.
"The sergeant said, 'Get the fuck off the property,' " she told the chief.
Toth said profanity is unacceptable police conduct. He also said he wants to know about reports of officers using racial slurs.
"This is what I have to find out: 'Who said it?' " Toth said.
Lynch offered to help North College Hill.
"Obviously you've got a problem with police-community relations, which is why all of us are here," he said at the police station. "These people will be filing complaints. The Black United Front will be following up here and with the Justice Department."
Toth told the crowd to march carefully.
"You certainly have the right to go out and boycott and protest all you like," he said. "But please stay out of the streets, because I certainly don't want to see anyone get hurt."
Toth described the complaint process to the parents.
"If any officer's at fault, we'll find out and we'll deal with it," he said.
Toth instructed parents who file complaints to sign them at the police station, where they'd be notarized. But the distrust was clear even on such fine points. One man said the citizens would instead sign the complaint forms using the notary public of their choice.
The complaint form for the North College Hill Police Department opens with a warning — an "advisement," the form says — that people who file false complaints can be fined $1,000, jailed for six months and sued.
"This advisement is for your information and not intended to prevent you from making a legitimate complaint," the form says. ©