Tuesday, August 03, 1999

Protesters claim police brutality

Minority officers' association investigating

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cecil Thomas
        Police Spc. Cecil Thomas ran into an old friend Monday morning at Busken Bakery and heard a story that made him cringe.

        Michael Riley, 51, of Evanston, told him he was beaten by police last week as he was arrested for the first time in his life.

        Spc. Thomas, president of the Sentinel Police Association of about 250 minority officers, has been a vocal critic of aggressive arrests. Now his group is launching an investigation into alleged abuse of force.

        The Sentinel organization has been collecting anecdotes from citizens about problems with police.

        The latest example has Spc. Thomas asking anyone with information to call the Sentinel office at 651-3507 regarding last Tuesday's arrest of Mr. Riley, who uses the Arabic name Mikal Ali, and James Hardy, also known as Minister Abdul Muhammad Ali of the National Black Unity Coalition.

        “What we're doing is just trying to find out what really happened,” Spc. Thomas said. “Based on the stories out there now, we've got real bad police-community relations out there, and we don't want that.”

        Since Cincinnati police shot 30-year-old Michael Carpenter to death March 19 after stopping him for driving with an expired license tag in Northside, Mr. Riley and Mr. Hardy have been among those protesting the March 19 shooting by police of motorist Michael Carpenter.

        They were at Kings Run and Este Avenue in Winton Place last Tuesday when police first warned them to stay out of the street.

        When officers returned later, Mr. Hardy blew his bullhorn into the officer's car, Assistant Chief Ronald Twitty said. Officers sprayed him with chemical irritant as they arrested him, he said.

        “I don't have any documentation that he was beaten,” he said.

        Mr. Riley said officers jumped out of their car and began punching Mr. Hardy, claiming they were attacked.

        “They just jumped out of the car and started punching him and kept yelling, "You attacked us,'” he said.

        He began taking pictures, but said one officer grabbed his camera and threw him to the ground. His camera was broken and his film wasn't returned.

        Mr. Hardy and Mr. Riley face misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct.

        Mr. Riley said the real issue is police brutality.

        Alicia Reece, a city council candidate, urged a federal investigation into the Carpenter shooting and learned last week that the FBI will investigate it.

        Today, members of Avondale's New Friendship Baptist Church and the local group Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters (MOMS) are taking a bus trip to Washington, D.C., to protest police brutality, she said.

        Spc. Thomas said he plans to issue a report to the city next week making recommendations about how to improve the police-community relationship with the community.

        But Keith Fangman, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), said the Sentinels may might be going too far.

        “The police division's rules and regulations manual does not allow individual officers or groups, like the Sentinels or FOP, to conduct their own investigations,” he said.

        The police division averages 30 complaints a month out of 23,000 monthly contacts with citizens.

        Complaints routinely go to police internal investigations, the city's Office of Municipal Investigations or the newly formed citizens review panel.

        “The systems in place are ineffective,” Spc. Thomas said. “So the Sentinels are saying, "Maybe we can make this better.'”


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