Bob Franken: Curfew ends; investigations begin in Cincinnati
Bob Franken is a national correspondent for CNN, based in Washington, D.C. He has been in Cincinnati covering events following the shooting death of an unarmed black man by a city police officer.
Q: What prompted Cincinnati Mayor Charles Luken to lift the curfew?
Franken: Since Mayor Luken imposed the curfew, the violence, in effect, has stopped. There have been a number of arrests, but the violence, for all practical purposes, has ended. City officials are banking on the fact that some of the intense emotions have now modified a bit, and that the city is ready to get back to normalcy. Obviously, it is going to be very tense in the city. Tonight will be a test to see if this city is ready to move forward.
Q: Mayor Lukens has established a commission on race. Are people optimistic about the effectiveness of the commission?
Franken: The commissions’ recommendations are just that - recommendations. Elected officials would have to act on anything that was to be codified. Many people charge that for too long Cincinnati has been a city that ignored the minority community’s complaints that the police department was insensitive to their concerns, to say the least. Now, because of the violence that has occurred, it is now a city that is ready to pay attention. Critics charge, however, that there have been many reports over the years; the main thing they have done is gather dust.
Q: What changes were minority leaders seeking even before this recent incident?
Franken: These leaders would like to see something that is not allowed now - choosing the police chief from the outside. Currently, the city charter requires that the police chief be someone who has come up through the ranks of the Cincinnati Police Department. They would like someone who perhaps has a national reputation, one who is better equipped, they say, to deal with the modern problems facing Cincinnati today.
Also, they would like a civilian review board of the police department, something that police officials usually hate. This board would review the activities of the police department and would have subpoena power, or the legal authority to take on the various charges that are raised against the police department. Those are two key demands from the minority community, and ones that will be very hard to achieve.
Q: What type of investigation will be launched into Timothy Thomas’ death?
Franken: There is a local grand jury now meeting now to decide whether to indict the police officer who shot and killed Tim Thomas. There are also federal investigations underway. The FBI is conducting an investigation into whether civil rights violations occurred. There is also a larger federal investigation in the preliminary stage to decide if the Cincinnati Police Department operations violate federal laws. If the department is found to violate federal laws, it could result in federal controls on the Cincinnati Police Department. It could also be decided that the Cincinnati Police Department meets the broad federal requirements.
Q: How does the police department feel about the mayor’s apology to Thomas’ family and friends?
Franken: No one is complaining about that apology. Many police organizations, particularly the Fraternal Order of Police, feel that the officers have gotten a bad wrap. These organizations contend that various members of the African- American community who have been shot and killed by police were, in fact, people who had tried to do harm to the policemen themselves. The organizations are not challenging the need to investigate this particular incident. All they are saying is that this is not such a one-sided matter.
Q: Have any members of the minority community spoken out in support of the police at this time?
Franken: Many people with whom you raise the issue say that they are sympathetic to the problems the police face, and that they are aware there are many good policeman. However, they also say that there are some bad apples in the police department, and that the department cannot be allowed to continue without more sensitivity to a segment of the community which is 43 percent of Cincinnati.
Easter calm in Cincinnati
Cincinnati Police Division
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