Police Reform: Is it time for Cincinnati to have a new police chief?

Charles Tassell, president of Blue Chip Young Republicans If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photo of Val Lemmie and Chief Streicher walking hand in hand spoke volumes -- just not

Apr 11, 2002 at 2:06 pm

Charles Tassell, president of Blue Chip Young Republicans
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the photo of Val Lemmie and Chief Streicher walking hand in hand spoke volumes — just not what some people wanted to hear. It's easy for those who have done little in life nor had to make hard decisions to sit back and demonize a leader, especially when it's the local leader of the agency prescribed to use force on citizens in a "free country."

We are here by choice and, of course, free to leave like Johnny Taliban. However, in staying, we agree to abide by laws and regulations — even those we oppose.

We have a respected history of peaceful protests that work for change. Change is good and expected. However, we must also recognize change when it comes.

Another trait that is hard to recognize (for those who choose not to) is that of restraint. Many people in the chief's place, as police chiefs from the area will testify, would not have handled the past year nearly as well or as peaceably as he and his team have. In fact, everyone is much more likely to die at the hands of a black criminal than a police officer (white or not).

"Throw the bums out" is an easy mantra but hardly helpful. To some degree it has been the course of action, though. Politicians find it easy to sacrifice administrative positions to show that they are "doing something."

That is part of the concern about last November's Issue 5 — it provides a whole lot of scapegoats for poor leaders. A new chief of police, especially one not familiar with Cincinnati, would need at least 18 months to implement changes — changes that Chief Streicher, with the respect of his men and women in blue, is already implementing.

The ratification of the settlement by the FOP highlights the fact that police professionals know that even if the lawsuit was baseless (and it was) the changes may still be appropriate and real feedback is needed.

Chief Streicher helped build this settlement and will be key in effectively putting it in to place. We're in mid-stream and that's no time to change horses.

Dave Schaff, president of Hamilton County Young Democrats
Getting rid of Chief Tom Streicher is not a solution, and he should not be a scapegoat. Rather the chief and city leaders should continue to work together to solve the cultural and organizational challenges that face the city of Cincinnati.

The recent settlement agreement of the racial profiling lawsuit and the Justice Department's investigation provides one such antiseptic to heal the city's wounds. The real work of applying that antiseptic starts now.

Many positive changes have already occurred in the city's leadership that will provide Chief Streicher with the support needed to lead his division into a new era. The Fraternal Order of Police has a new leader in Richard Webster, former Councilman Phil Heimlich is gone, the strong mayor system is in place and most importantly former City Manager John Shirey, who lacked leadership over the police division, has been replaced by Valerie Lemmie.

These changes, which have only occurred in the past six months, should set Chief Streicher up for success, not failure, as was the case last April.

I was impressed with how Chief Streicher handled the internal affairs report into Officer Roach's shooting incident, which sparked last April's riots. The report concluded that Roach violated police policy on the use of his weapon and lied to investigators about the shooting. Chief Streicher also stated to all police officers, "Dishonesty cannot and will not be tolerated in our organization," and police officers who lie to investigators can expect to be terminated.

To improve our quality of life, we must all learn from our mistakes and teach each other not to repeat them. Only then will there be a stronger and healthier Cincinnati. I can only hope that our city as a whole has learned from the experiences of the past year.

Brian Garry, member of the Coalition for a Just Cincinnati
Police Chief Streicher has betrayed the community of Cincinnati. He has breached a sacred trust between him and the citizens of Cincinnati.

Streicher withheld evidence by not presenting information he had regarding Officer Roach's statements. If you or I have knowledge about a crime and do not report it, then we can be charged with withholding evidence and/or contempt of court. One would think that the chief of police should be held to the same standard as everyone else.

Streicher has been police chief during a turbulent time. According to many bystander accounts, the police themselves caused most of the turbulence. Take for instance the brutal beatings in November 2000 when 56 peaceful protesters were arrested, Maced and beaten in the streets of downtown Cincinnati.

Twenty years ago there was a report initiated by the psychologist for the Cincinnati Police Division concluded the city must hire a police chief from outside Cincinnati. The past three police chiefs have been from Elder High School. You'd have to go back to 1917 to find a chief who was not from the West Side of Cincinnati.

Here are Streicher's duties, taken directly from the Cincinnati Police Web site: "Colonel Thomas H. Streicher Jr. is responsible for the Police Division operations. Chief Streicher coordinates, organizes, directs and controls activities, implements policy and makes necessary personnel and procedural changes to ensure the effective operation of the division. Bureau commanders, the executive officer and the training section are directly accountable to Chief Streicher."

Cincinnati entrusted Streicher to "control police activities" while they shot 300 citizens of Cincinnati last April with so-called non-lethal ammunition. Among those shot were children, women and elderly citizens. If he was in "control" of police shooting children and women, then he is evil.

Streicher is but a symbol of the old, corrupt and abusive way, not the new and respectful community oriented police. In order for this city to move forward together, it is necessary to remove the obstacles.

Each month, CityBeat poses a question to young leaders in the local Democrat and Republican parties as well as a selected third party or independent activist.