Sometimes it's little missteps that change the slant of a news story. Consider a WCPO (Channel 9) Web report about Kenneth Lawson's attempt to keep his law license. The story discussed in some detail testimony at an Oct. 15 disciplinary hearing in Columbus. Describing Lawson's addiction to painkillers and its effect on his law practice, the article explains his financial decline: "Now he says he attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, volunteers with the group and occasionally digs trenches for gas money."
Rather a sad picture. But read on, and it becomes even more dire. Near the end of the article comes this statement: "He said he now attends several AA meetings a day, volunteers at the group's coffee shop and often digs trenches to earn gas money."
The difference between "occasionally" and "often" digging trenches is perhaps small, but it's that kind of unintended error that can put credibility in doubt.
That is not the kind of error that mars the newly published Cincinnati Police History. The kind of error in this book is commonly known as "lying."
The introduction by Alan March of Cincinnati Police Historical Society contains this multi-layered whopper: "The CPD faced disorder in the fall of 2000 when the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue, an international business group, met in Cincinnati. Protesters from across the country came, many intent on violence. The CPD met the large disorderly crowds with a new technology: bean bag shotguns. This less-lethal tool stopped the rioters without causing serious, permanent injuries to the suspects."
The protests against the globalization conference were marred by violence, all right — but it was all initiated by the police (see "The 12-Second Warning," issue of Nov. 22, 2000). Not a single weapon was found in the dozens of arrests they made, and not a single protester was charged with an act of violence. Nor was there any property damage noted after the three-day protest downtown.
But lots of pepper spray got used on peaceful protesters. Lots of people fought the charges against them and won in court. Lots of outrage followed the suppression of the protests, but city council refused to investigate police behavior.
The rest of the "history" of the police department, written by CityBeat contributor Christine Mersch with the Cincinnati Police Historical Society Museum, is free of the kind of falsehood contained in the introduction, but it goes noticeably light when the history turns to the police department's less than shining moments. One section discusses Chief Myron Jack Leistler, chief from 1976 to 1985.
"He succeeded Carl Goodin, who stepped down," the book says. "Leistler, known to have impeccable character, was chosen to replace Goodin to restore high moral standards to the police department. Nicknamed 'Lemonade Jack' because he did not drink, Leistler took a strict military approach to reforming the police department and was lauded for his efforts."
Chief Goodin stepped down, all right. But the "history" never tells readers he was convicted of perjury and tampering with evidence (overturned on appeal). Nor does it mention that both Goodin and Lemonade Jack were among a group of Cincinnati Police officers who in 1989 admitted illegal wiretapping, with help from Cincinnati Bell installers, against the Nation of Islam, Students for a Democratic Society and other targets.
Turf Wars and Un-speedy Trials
The Queen City Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the union representing Cincinnati Police officers, has endorsed voting "no" on the proposed Hamilton County sales tax for a new jail. But the issue is purely a turf battle to the FOP. Cathy Harrell, FOP president, is quoted by www.WeDemandaVote.com saying, "We are opposed to Issue 27 due to the fact that the funds will be used for the hiring of additional sheriff's deputies, which will be used to patrol the streets of Cincinnati."
Meanwhile, a man who has worn an ankle bracelet while free on bond for more than four years might finally get his day in court next week. The very strange prosecution of Jesse Tuttle, a former FBI informant, is set for trial Oct. 22 (see "The Wild Wild Web," issue of June 15, 2005).
Charged in 2003 with an unauthorized — and admittedly harmless — hack-in on a county Web site, Tuttle was then indicted when cops allegedly found a photo on his computer showing a 12-year-old girl in a shower. The case is full of weird twists and turns, including the fact that the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office allowed a civilian employee to serve a search warrant at Tuttle's house and the previous judge assigned to the case said, after seeing the photo in question, "That's pornography?"
For more on police confabulations and freakish prosecutions, check out CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at blogs.citybeat.com/Porkopolis.
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