Thursday, August 5, 2004

Council's back, so is stupidity See a pattern?

Peter Bronson

The mayor says take this job and shove it. The FOP is H-O-T. Something called a "Complaint Authority" does a Gomer Pyle "citizen's ahrest." Levies go down, gas prices go up, terrorists plot and a hurricane blows like the Democratic National Convention.

And it all happened the same week Cincinnati City Council went back to work. Coincidence? I think not.

When council goes on vacation, the local Stupidity Index drops 50 percent, race relations improve and newspapers are filled with museum stories because acrimony is as scarce as earmuffs in Ecuador.

But the Plum Street Springer Show is back.

• With time running out to appoint an assistant police chief, City Manager Valerie Lemmie announced she will conduct a national search and appoint two. "I have authority under the current contract," she said.

But FOP President Harry Roberts said, "It's an obvious attempt to circumvent the courts," and pass over officers who are in line for the jobs. "It's a perfect example," he said, of why the city has an almost unblemished record of losing against the FOP.

"There's a very good likelihood the FOP will prevail," said Mayor Charlie Luken. So why pick a fight? "This is a council mandate," he said.

Luken and Roberts wanted a compromise, but council rejected it and Lemmie had no choice. "A majority of council insisted on a position that will drive a wedge between police and citizens unnecessarily," Luken said.

• Driving wedges is City Council's job description. A Citizen Complaint Authority created by council's hysteric collaborative agreement on riot appeasement decided three cops who struggled to subdue a man should get "severe disciplinary sanctions" because they did not "disengage" in time to prevent a heart attack that killed Nathaniel Jones, who was obese and on crack and PCP.

"The report was so unbelievable we were in shock," Roberts said. "It borders on irresponsible. We will never disengage when there is a clear and present threat to officers or others."

Luken thanked the panel for their work, but said, "I disagree with their conclusion. I think a police officer has a right to defend himself."

Good point. A city with record black-on-black murders would be crazy to tell the police to "disengage."

But if the cops should have backed off, the question is, when?

Should they have backed off when Jones grabbed a cop in a headlock and slugged him? When he wrestled with two cops on the ground? When he grabbed at their nightsticks and a gun? When he continued to resist after they finally managed to put two sets of cuffs on him because he was so huge? Or earlier, when they repeatedly asked him to back off?

It's tricky, because the whole struggle took just pwo`minutes. Most of us can hardly choose "paper or plastic" that fast.

But I think the time to back off was at 5:45 a.m., when Jones was dancing outside a White Castle like a deranged sumo wrestler, shouting obscenities. The cops should have disengaged - and called the Citizen Complaint Authority to handle it. Jones would probably still be alive. But someone else might not be.

• No wonder Luken said he will not run for re-election in 2005 because there is too much negativity about the city. He's right. We have bureaucratic terrorism and political hurricanes every week when council is in session. Not to mention columns like this one.

E-mail or call 768-8301.

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