Saturday, January 3, 2004

Twitty invited to help fight violence

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE] Ron Twitty talks on WDBZ radio Friday afternoon.
(Ernest Coleman photo)
Cincinnati's mayor, in an effort to curb escalating homicides in the city, reached out Friday to Ron Twitty and welcomed help from the ousted former assistant police chief.

Mayor Charlie Luken called Twitty, first to express his condolences about the death of Twitty's stepson, who was fatally shot in Bond Hill on Monday. Allen Shannon, 30, became the 75th and final homicide victim of 2003.

But the conversation turned to Twitty's desire to honor his stepson's memory by leading a grass-roots effort against violence.

"I encouraged him to be involved in these anti-violence efforts,'' Luken said. "Frankly, Ron Twitty is a guy I worked with in years gone by on issues of crime and violence in Cincinnati. I think we have to look for our help wherever we can on this."

Twitty, Luken and the four black members on Cincinnati City Council have all said in the last week that the city's increase in homicide is unacceptable and said they are working on strategies aimed at curbing the violence. But all have been short on specifics.

The city recorded its most murderous year in 2003 since 1977. The 75 victims compared to 66 in 2002.

Twitty, 53, left the department in 2002 as part of a plea deal to end a criminal case against him over damage to his city-owned car. Chief Tom Streicher asked the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office to investigate, and Twitty pleaded no contest to attempted obstruction of official business. He had been on the force since 1973.

Luken said he expected inviting Twitty into crime-fighting conversations might not sit well with some police officers. He said he still believes the key to curbing the crimes is "tried-and-true" methods of aggressive policing, with community support.

"But I think you have to find people who can speak to different constituencies on their level," the mayor said. "And Col. Twitty can do that."

Streicher, who launched the investigation into Twitty's car accident, was out of town Friday and declined to discuss the mayor's invitation. But after the investigation into Twitty's car accident, Streicher said he believed his long-time colleague lied to him about what happened to the Ford Taurus.

New Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Harry Roberts said he welcomed Twitty's input in the discussion.

"Col. Twitty's still a recognized leader in this community," Roberts said. "And as such, we need his input. We need to combine every resource that we can to solve this problem."

The mayor said he'd like to talk with Twitty again in the coming weeks as plans solidify.

Twitty said he appreciated the mayor's call.

"I don't even know what (the plan) is going to be yet," the former assistant chief said. "The main thing is if you're not in it for the long haul, don't come."

Luken has said he is working on an anti-violence plan, which will involve non-traditional community leaders as well as younger people. And the four black members of City Council will be asking next week for $100,000 to pay for their "Black on Black Crime Initiative." It calls for a reinstatement of the department's gang unit and expansion of a Children's Hospital injury prevention program into more schools and recreation centers.

As Twitty talked again Friday afternoon on WDBZ radio about stopping the violence, the city recorded its first homicide of 2004. A man was shot to death as he ran, dodging cars on Liberty Street at 3:30 in Over-the-Rhine. He fell dead in the street.

Dozens of callers to the radio station Friday said they would line up behind Twitty, even though they're not yet sure what that means.

"There was no doubt that I was going to be able to find people," Twitty said. "But now I don't even have to look. These are people I've known for years, who are successful in the things they've done, who are willing to step up."

Twitty said he doesn't expect special treatment from the police department, but that he doesn't want his relationship with Streicher, the sheriff's detectives who investigated him and Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen to be stumbling blocks to what he hopes to accomplish.

"I just don't want any roadblocks," Twitty said. "All I want is access to the same resources and access to police officers that any citizen would have."


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