Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Black officers blast FOP president

Decry Twitty treatment, vote union 'no confidence'

By Jane Prendergast,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati's black police officers' group blasted the Fraternal Order of Police on Tuesday, saying the FOP's white president failed to stand up for Lt. Col. Ron Twitty and that it is the latest example of a lack of representation for black officers.

[photo] Members of the Sentinels Police Association leave their Over-the-Rhine office Tuesday after casting a vote of "no confidence" in the Fraternal Order of Police union.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        Scotty Johnson, president of the Sentinel Police Association, announced that the Sentinels took a “no-confidence” vote in the FOP. He questioned why FOP President Roger Webster hasn't been seen in the news vigorously defending Col. Twitty and asked why Spc. Webster told Mayor Charlie Luken to “stay the hell out” of Chief Tom Streicher's decision to put the assistant chief on paid administrative leave.

        Col. Twitty was suspended with pay pending an investigation into his report that a hit-skip driver had damaged his city owned car.

        The “no-confidence” decision came after the assistant chief spoke to the group Monday night.

        “He's great,” Spc. Johnson said of Col. Twitty. “He's a strong man. But it showed the younger officers that, unfortunately, we're all vulnerable.... There's nobody more loyal than Lieutenant Colonel Twitty.”

        Behind Spc. Johnson as he spoke at Sentinel headquarters stood about 50 members of the group, all in black Sentinels T-shirts, and with him sat two retired officers who helped start the Sentinels in 1968. One of them was Artie Crum, who has known both Col. Twitty and Chief Streicher for years.

        “They would never have done this,” Mr. Crum said, “to one of the white lieutenant colonels.”

        Col. Twitty is the only African-American to rise to second-in-command. He was put on paid administrative leave, with his police powers suspended and his badge and gun taken, July 12 after Chief Streicher questioned his honesty about the car wreck. Col. Twitty reported early July 4 that the 2001 gray Ford Taurus was hit as it sat outside his Bond Hill apartment, while he was sleeping. The chief questioned that, saying among other things there should have been debris at the accident scene and there was not.

        “I can guarantee this is not the last you're going to hear on this issue,” Spc. Johnson said.

        He also mentioned Spc. Webster's involvement in the April debate over whether the FOP memorial was spit on when a crowd gathered there on the anniversary of the fatal police shooting of Timothy Thomas. Spc. Webster asked for a city investigation into the vandalism, though the chief and others said they had seen nothing wrong.

        He said Spc. Webster's raising that issue was “a direct attack on the black community.”

        Spc. Webster was out of town Tuesday at a training session on collective bargaining. Keith Fangman, first vice president of the union, said “there is certainly the opportunity to improve the relationship between Scotty Johnson and Roger Webster” and said he'd help do that.

        “The anti-police forces in this community thrive on this divide- and-conquer mentality when it comes to cops,” he said. “We need to find ways to come together and be stronger, and I'm committed to that.”

        He disagreed, however, with Spc. Johnson's assertions that representation has lagged for some time. Just Tuesday, he said, the FOP won a black officer's job back through arbitration and paid his legal bills. Officer Terrance Dobbins had been fired for use of force in which he was accused of punching someone in the face.

        “We have a long track record of defending black officers in arbitration,” Officer Fangman said. “Those facts speak for themselves.”

        He reiterated what he has said regarding Col. Twitty — that the FOP likes the assistant chief.

        “The FOP's position is clear — he is innocent until proven guilty,” Officer Fangman said. “If he is disciplined as a result of this, the FOP would represent Colonel Twitty.”

        Spc. Johnson said the relationship was better during Officer Fangman's term as president. He was president for four years before leaving the job in December.


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