Tuesday, June 1, 2004
If Cops comes back to town, I hope they film an episode at City Hall. What passes for government at City Council meetings is a crime.
It's obvious - they don't support cops
Vice Mayor Alicia Reece: Guilty of creating a public nuisance when the mayor leaves her in charge.
Chris Smitherman: Verbally assaulting a police division and drive-by cop bashing.
Pat DeWine: Complicity in committing stupidity.
When they heard the TV show was in town to film Cincinnati police in action, they pitched a fit and made a fool of our city. The rest of the council sat there and acted like innocent bystanders.
Let's look at the rerun.
On Wednesday, Reece, Smitherman and DeWine went after City Manager Valerie Lemmie with rhetorical Tasers. The next day, after a meeting with Lemmie, Police Chief Tom Streicher reversed his permission to film Cops in Cincinnati.
"It has never happened to us before," said John Langley, creator and executive producer of Cops. After 600 episodes with 200 law enforcement agencies, "This is a first," he said. "I find it bizarre."
So does most of Cincinnati. Reece was "upset" that Cops might cause bad publicity. This was the same week she repeatedly warned that Cincinnati will have "a long, hot summer" - meaning more riots. Now that's some good publicity to bring people downtown. DeWine said the chief has no right to let Cops film his officers doing their jobs. Smitherman said Cops would show police "hog-tying African-American men on TV."
Langley replied, "I find that insulting and ignorant. They don't even know what the show is. I doubt if they've even seen the show."
Roger that. Cops is more than muscle. It shows the human side of a tough and dangerous job. For every drunken, drugged-up perp who is wrestled to the pavement, there's a cop who shows compassion to "vics" - and even to bad boys in "wife-beater" T-shirts.
"I show what's real," Langley said. "It infuriates me that they are adopting this attitude about a documentary program that is the same as something you see on PBS. What is the problem? What are they afraid of?"
Good question. Smitherman likes to demand a "transparent" police division. Langley said, "They say they want transparency, then they pull the curtains shut."
The Police Division would have had final approval for anything put on the air, he said. Cops is unabashedly pro-police.
Maybe that's the real problem. Before the plug was pulled, Lt. Col. Richard Janke said, "It's a chance to reverse the very negative image the media have shown of Cincinnati police." He wondered if council members "are actually afraid the Police Division will look good."
Streicher was "disheartened and disappointed" about losing the chance to show the world that Cincinnati's finest are brave, courteous, professional cops. He said Mayor Charlie Luken offered to stand behind him. The chief backed down out of loyalty to Lemmie, who was being "hung out to dry."
Maybe we should put out an APB - be on the lookout for a strong mayor.
The county sheriff, Covington and Norwood stepped in to welcome Cops. But this ridiculous episode of council has rubbed chemical irritant into the unhealed wounds of a police division that has been bashed for political sport.
Singling out Reece, Smitherman and DeWine, Streicher said, "Those three consistently and constantly discredit the police.
"The whole thing was an effort to get to me."
But here's bad news for the cop bashers who can't wait to replace him. He's exercising an option that allows him to bank his pension and collect a salary - and remain chief for eight more years. "To the dismay of some people," he said.
Maybe that will be long enough to see Cincinnati's finest on Cops - and adults on City Council.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 768-8301.
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