Thursday, June 3, 2004

Take 3: 'Cops' invited back to city

Streicher tells show: Let suburbs have spotlight first

By Kevin Aldridge
and Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Cops should be back in action in Cincinnati by late summer.

Police Chief Tom Streicher re-invited the television show Wednesday, six days after canceling it in response to pressure from City Council members who questioned the show's impact on tourism and the city's image. He changed his mind after six members - a majority of the nine - sent him a memo Wednesday that said they wanted the decision to be his and the administration's.

That was key because Streicher had said he canceled because having the popular reality TV show here wasn't worth fighting with City Council.

The two-month wait comes because Streicher didn't want to barge in front of of three other departments who stepped into the void after Cincinnati backed out. Film crews rode with a Norwood officer Friday, started eight weeks of filming Tuesday with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office and filmed with officers in Covington Wednesday.

"After that, I told them the door is wide open,'' Streicher said. "And I told them if they didn't want to come then, they're welcome anytime as long as I'm police chief.''

John Langley, executive producer of Cops, sent an e-mail to council saying he would be "delighted" to film with the Cincinnati Police Department.

The taping of Cops came under fire from Vice Mayor Alicia Reece and Councilman Christopher Smitherman at the end of the May 26 council meeting.

Reece said the timing was bad, considering that the city is dealing with 31 homicides so far this year. She said showcasing crime in Cincinnati would do little to improve the city's national image, which has been battered in recent years by riots and boycotts.

Smitherman said he opposed the taping because no one needed to see Cincinnati officers "hog-tying" African-American men.

Councilman Pat DeWine, who a week ago said, "I can't think of anything positive" coming from the Cops visit, signed his name to Wednesday's memo supporting Streicher's decision. DeWine said his earlier statements on the issue did not mean that he wanted the show to leave town.

"I thought we ought to be focused on fighting crime, and this seemed to be an unnecessary distraction from that."

Reece, Smitherman and Councilwoman Laketa Cole did not sign the letter.

Smitherman accused his fellow council members Wednesday of being "short-sighted" and "pandering to the police department."

"This was a bad decision for the city today," Smitherman said of the re-invitation. "They are playing Russian roulette with this city.

"They are going to be showing predominantly African-American men being chased down by white officers. And I'm saying I don't like that."

Keith Fangman, vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the decision to film Cops is about more than a 30-minute television show.

"It's about support for our police. For three years, we've been beat over the head by the national media and unfairly portrayed. This is a terrific opportunity for once to get some positive publicity for our department and our city."

Chief Streicher said he called Langley to extend the second invitation after talking with Mayor Charlie Luken and Assistant City Manager Rashaad Young. City Manager Valerie Lemmie is out of the office this week.

The chief repeated that he gets final editing approval over everything that airs, but Smitherman said he remained skeptical.

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