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Cincinnati Police Chief and Mayor Speak About City's Curfew, Violence

Aired April 13, 2001 - 11:28   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: That news conference is ready to go in Cincinnati. So let's go ahead and listen in, starting with the chief of police.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CHIEF THOMAS STREICHER, CINCINNATI POLICE: ... incidents and violations other than the curfew violation. We also had nine juvenile arrests overnight. Three of those were for burglary, and one arrest was for other than a curfew violation.

We did have some sporadic reports of incidents overnight, such as rock and bottle throwing. We did have some incidents of gunfire overnight, none of which resulted in any injuries to any of the police officers or any other citizen.

The most serious incident we did have was a delicatessen, known as the Redwood Delicatessen (ph), in Kennedy Heights (ph), at the intersection of Woodford (ph) and Kennedy (ph) Roads, was set afire last night, approximately $100,000 damage is estimated by the fire division. Also on that one, there were no injuries to report.

I'd like to update you on who is seated here at the front of the table, and I should have done that already. I apologize.

To my far right is the Hamilton County sheriff, Sheriff Simon Leis. Second to my right is Colonel Kenneth Morckel, who is the superintendent of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. To my immediate right is Mr. John Shirey, he's the city manager of the city of Cincinnati.

(CROSSTALK)

I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

(CROSSTALK)

It's been a long week and I'm starting to get tired, I think.

To my right, we'll go to my right again, is the Honorable Charles Luken, who's the mayor of the city of Cincinnati. To my left is Mr. John Shirey, the city manager of the city of Cincinnati. And to his left is Mr. Gregory Baker, the assistant safety director of the city of Cincinnati.

In line of assistance that we've had so far from Sheriff Simon Leis on the far right, is he has provided us with a number of deputy sheriffs that has allowed us to continue to provide normal levels of police services in all four outlying districts here in the city of Cincinnati, and has also provided us with helicopters that we have used on an almost-24-hour basis to us in keeping people off of roofs here and also identify trouble spots and to provide for additional safety to any of the people that are moving through the city and also to help us facilitate the movement of traffic.

Colonel Morckel from the State Patrol has provided us with 120 state troopers on a 24-hour basis here. They arrived yesterday -- actually yesterday evening -- in quite an efficient manner, I might add. We just had had a conversation with him around noon, and by 6:00 his troopers had arrived. They assisted us immediately, starting at 8:00 last night, on a 24-hour basis. They also have delivered a helicopter here for our assistance.

The State Patrol here in the city is escorting fire companies, they're guarding fire houses, they are providing security at city hall, and they're also providing security for public works crews who are going around the city and providing cleanup for the various business and residents that have been affected by this.

One final thing I'd like to speak to you about, and then I'll open up to questions, is we met this morning, after doing an evaluation of the week so far, with the mayor and the city manager and their staffs, this morning, discussed operations. At this point, it is our intention to continue the curfew and the state of emergency as it is in effect. We are going to conduct daily evaluations of our experiences overnight to try to make a determination of exactly how long that should go. But at this point we are continuing the state of emergency as it was set in place yesterday by the mayor.

With that, I'll open up to questions from anyone.

QUESTION: Will the curfew continue as it is from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m.? And will it include all 48 neighborhoods?

STREICHER: Yes. It's applied citywide and will continue from 8 p.m. until 6 a.m. And again, the reason for that is we want to try to facilitate normal business hours as best we can and then give people an opportunity to get home, get to the store, take care of any type of personal business that they can, and then try to get people off the streets just as nightfall arrives.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the way things went last night, and will there be anything additional or anything less or any changes at all to cover the upcoming weekend?

STREICHER: Actually, last night went well beyond our expectations. We had a tremendous amount of voluntary compliance from the citizens, which we're very happy with. We are going to continue our emphasis on facilitating the needs of people and trying to make decisions with common sense as best we can about the movement of people and the assistance that we can provide.

Again, the emphasis to our officers will be to treat people with courtesy and respect, but also to remember that their primary focus this time is on safety. That is on the protection of property and the protection of people who are out on a necessary basis.

QUESTION: So no changes on the status of the curfew this weekend?

STREICHER: That's correct.

QUESTION: Do you feel at this point that you have regain control of your city?

STREICHER: Yes. I think to say "regain control of the city" is one way to look at it. I think what I can say to you is that the citizens of Cincinnati have elected to maintain control here. They've elected to change the type of activity that is being conducted here and take a greater interest in the city and realize that it's time for things to settle down and cool off. So I don't want to take the credit for it as a police agency, I'd rather give the credit to the citizens here and say that they've agreed to do that.

QUESTION: How are the officers holding up?

STREICHER: The officers are holding up extremely well. I would offer, too, that they've been in 12-hour shifts for most of the week, carrying a tremendous amount of equipment, as much as 35 and 40 pounds of equipment with them at a time. So it has a burden with them, the same as with anyone else, 12-hours shifts do tend to take its toll on them.

But their morale is extremely high, they're very confident in themselves, they feel as though they've had an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise this week. And I'm, quite frankly, very, very proud of the officers here.

QUESTION: A question for the chief or for the mayor. Is it strictly still day by day or are you assuming that Saturday night this will be taken off?

STREICHER: Day by day, as far as what...

QUESTION: The curfew.

STREICHER: Right. The curfew is still in effect and it's going to remain in effect until we make a decision to stop it. But it is going to be conducted with a daily evaluation of our experience from overnight.

QUESTION: Any likelihood in terms of whether it continues into Saturday night (inaudible) all weekend?

STREICHER: Saturday, we believe, is a crucial day for us. As you know, the funeral is Saturday from 11:30 to 1:30. We expect a large turnout for that. And we also have some intelligence information that there are going to be some large crowds around Saturday afternoon. So we look for Saturday to be a potential turning point for us in this whole event.

QUESTION: You mentioned 154 curfew arrests. Did you get some clue last night as to whether the fact that these people were out on the streets was in fact some sort of protest against the curfew (inaudible)?

STREICHER: Actually, I was out until about 1:00 this morning. Most of the people that I saw that were arrested last night were individuals or just two or three people at a time.

STREICHER: They were out and, quite frankly, just didn't obey the curfew last night and didn't want to obey the requests of the officers to go inside. That's what resulted in their arrest.

As it got later, there were some groups of 10 or 12, 15 people that did challenge it, did do some rock- and bottle-throwing and set a couple of fires last night.

So there were some sporadic incidents, but mostly it was individuals or small groups of two to five people.

QUESTION: So the people that were arrested did not know about the curfew?

STREICHER: Oh, absolutely. We approached people and advised them of the curfew, warned them. Some of the people -- a lot of the people that were arrested had several warnings before they were arrested, and they'd been encountered on a number of occasions.

QUESTION: What is the status of Officer Roach?

STREICHER: Officer Roach is on administrative leave at this time, still as he was last week.

QUESTION: How long will that continue?

STREICHER: That's a decision we'll have to make as the investigation develops and as we confer with the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of what the regular business of the night was, calls that were not related to the curfew and just regular calls you normally do, whether the curfew infringed on that or had any affect on this at all, the business of the night?

STREICHER: Well, actually it was a very, very slow night in terms of normal activity. Because of the cooperation of the state patrol and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office, we were able to pretty much deliver normal police services as best we can. If tensions start to heighten and activity starts to increase, obviously we'd have to prioritize our response to people's request for service.

QUESTION: Was it 54 arrests that were not related to the curfew? STREICHER: Fifty-four adults and nine juveniles. QUESTION: Aside from the curfew, are there times when you're continuing to ask people to stay out of certain areas of the city? Are there still some trouble spots that, maybe, in the hours before the curfew, you'd like people to avoid if they have business there, and could you name them?

I wouldn't say that there are areas that we are asking anybody to avoid at this time. We believe that we're returning to a great sense of normalcy.

I would say to people that there are areas of the city that have been affected, and it's pretty obvious when you get to those areas. They may want to remain aware of their surroundings and also remain aware of any potential trouble spots if they see them. If they do, I would advise them to probably move away from that area.

QUESTION: How did the city get to the point where there were people on the streets throwing rocks, bottles, rioting and so forth?

STREICHER: How did we get here?

QUESTION: Yes, how did the city get to the point...

STREICHER: That's what this has been about for a week. It would take a long time to answer that question. I mean, there are a lot of different points and a lot of different contentions about what has gone on here.

But I think we all know how we've gotten here at this point.

QUESTION: At some point, this curfew will end. How concerned are you that when it does end, things will go back -- maybe not quite as bad as the last couple of days -- but you won't have that tool to just shut down people from going crazy?

STREICHER: Well, I think we have to depend on the good common sense of the people that are here and return to normalcy.

You know that in normal times -- you're part of this community -- this is not normal activity for the city of Cincinnati. In fact, the city has traditionally been extremely conservative and a great place to live for everybody. And we certainly would expect the overwhelming majority of our citizens to return to the same lifestyle.

QUESTION: Any idea of the economic impact of, number one, the unrest and, number two, of the curfew?

CHARLES LUKEN, MAYOR OF CINCINNATI: I'm sorry, we have not had a chance to evaluate those numbers. Suffice it to say, a lot of businesses are suffering, and they've called my office and seem to understand and want to work with us. They suffer, and we'd like to get them back in business as quickly as we can, but we don't have any numbers.

QUESTION: I've been doing some rounds this morning, over in this neighborhood. People are saying that this is a racist city and that here in Cincinnati, there is a racist police in which there is no adequate (ph) relationship between the black people living in town and the proportion of black people in the force, and that the police force does not understand their ways of thinking, the cultural habits, the traditions, the way of behaving of the black people. And because of that, every time they see some African-American, they feel that there is something strange and they misbehave sometimes (inaudible) and don't always act in a professional manner. Would both of you please convey your attitude?

STREICHER: I'm quite certain and I would readily acknowledge that there are a number different points of views about the state of being here in the city of Cincinnati and throughout the nation.

I think that what is key to understand is that we all have to understand, we all have to be ready to admit and acknowledge that we all have strengths and we all have weaknesses. We also all have room for improvement.

And if we all come to that point where we can start to accept our strengths, accept our weaknesses and work on those things in cooperation with each other and start to respect each other as human beings, for who we are and not what we are, then it's the first step in this entire nation becoming a better place to live.

STAFF: OK, we'll take two more questions.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

LUKEN: I concur completely.

QUESTION: Colonel, what do you think about -- obviously, they have some view from Spain which is not normal. If the city loses population trying to attract business, what is this doing to the city, regionally and nationally?

STREICHER: Well, it's certainly not a good week for Cincinnati in the eyes of the nation. I worry that some of our communities will get scarred and all of the work, the money, that we've tried to invest to rehabilitate some neighborhoods will be lost. So I think one of the agendas when we get to the other end of this is to try to put those communities back on track.

I mean, you know these neighborhoods as well as I do. They have struggled for decades. They have a long way to go, and we'd like to get them on a more upbeat track. But suffice it to say that we have not done ourselves any favors in terms of our image in the last few days.

QUESTION: Mayor Luken, there was an outpouring of people last night in New Purcell (ph) Baptist Church where Kweisi Mfume, the president and CEO of the NAACP. At what point in time will you sit down and address the citizens of Cincinnati in an open forum, a town hall meeting?

And a follow-up would be, will there be business as usual at city hall? LUKEN: I don't know the answer to that just yet. We're hopeful to have a council meeting on Wednesday. And I met with Mr. Mfume for an hour yesterday, and Mrs. Leisure (ph) and Mr. Leisure (ph). And I met with the Black Panthers, and I meet with the ministers. And the meetings go on and on, every day, all day.

I would just like to express my own appreciation to leaders in the African-American community for their help in getting us some quiet last night. And I would take this opportunity to express my appreciation to the sheriff, to the highway patrol for their assistance in coming to Cincinnati and helping us out in this difficult time.

(CROSSTALK)

STREICHER: I'd like to mention one thing. State patrol and the sheriff's office -- the American Red Cross has been tremendous here too. They've been out with us since last Sunday night and provided support to not only the safety services but the people throughout the city on a 24-hour basis all this week.

STAFF: OK, we're going to end this, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your attendance.

KAGAN: All right, we've been listening to news conference out of Cincinnati with the Police Chief Thomas Streicher, also the mayor of Cincinnati Charles Luken talking about the situation that has hit that city, especially in the last four days of violent protests. Last night, a curfew, the chief of police announcing that curfew will continue tonight. That curfew goes from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. in the morning.

Also, the state of emergency does continue as well for all neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Our Bob Franken is covering the story for us from Cincinnati. Let's go to him -- Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, probably the key phrase during the news conference was the police chief saying, quote, "We believe we're returning to great sense of normalcy." Probably a lot of people will say that may be a bit premature. But everybody was quite pleased from the city officials and police point of view on how their curfew last night kept the streets very clean.

And when they weren't kept completely empty, there were police squads that swooped in and arrested people oftentimes with very, very little reason. If they couldn't come up with authorization for being on the streets under this state of emergency somebody was put under arrest. It happened very quickly. And it maintained quite a bit of calm throughout the night, although as officials pointed out, there were some sporadic encounters. But, of course, that is true on any given night.

So we have an awful lot about the law enforcement aspect of this, about returning to city to calm. But there was not a lot of discussion here -- it wasn't the forum -- to discuss the community relations effort that has been going on. The promise is that after decades there are going to be some efforts to try and resolve the criticisms that there's a real confrontation between the African- American community and the police department.

And one of the people in this city who is leading that is the reverend H.L. Harvey, who is the pastor of the New Friendship Baptist Church, which was the site last night of this town meeting where people got to come and explain why it is that they have such a hostility in the African-American community at the police department. What is going on now in that arena?

REV. H.L. HARVEY, NEW FRIENDSHIP BAPTIST CHURCH: Well, right now what we are trying to do now is pull everybody back together again. I think the mistake that they are making now -- they should have took the curfew off tonight. I really believe that.

We had ministers last night who were also going around in the streets also making people go back home, make sure the kids stay there. But not one -- only two city officials who was at the meeting last night. We had over 1,000 people on the inside and over 200 people on the outside. And no one from the city, but only two, that's Alicia Reece and I think Paul Booth, city council persons. No one else was there at all.

FRANKEN: Now, you were counseling anybody you talked to to calm down, not to continue the confrontations there have been with the police. But do you believe, as many people do, that after these decades that perhaps the anger was justified, the outburst was justified?

HARVEY: Oh, yes, definitely I do. The hostility has to come somewhere. Any time you keep killing black people -- and they keep saying it's not a problem, the chief says it's not a problem. It is a problem with the black community. Any time you keep killing black folks one right after another there has to be a problem. And we cannot sit down and really work this thing out.

FRANKEN: What about the contention that many people say that you've never been establish to establish a real dialogue with the white establishment in this town?

HARVEY: Say that again.

FRANKEN: You've never been able to, as the African-American leaders in Cincinnati, to establish a dialogue with the white establishment in town.

HARVEY: No. The simple reason is because they hold all the power. We can never do anything. Thank God we've got some black city council people in there now. But yet, still their hands are still tied. We cannot do anything at all when it comes to this government.

FRANKEN: Now, what are you going to do now? Do you feel that the climate has changed?

HARVEY: I think it's slowly changing. Last night was a diving board to go forward. And I think that we are trying to bring our youth together again. And we need to have more forums like this, like we had last night. Again, Al Sharpton is coming in on Sunday, and we're going to have another one again probably on Monday.

FRANKEN: There's been quite a bit of involvement from national figures. Kweisi Mfume is here. You say the Reverend Al Sharpton is coming Sunday. What can they bring to this?

HARVEY: Well, number one, it seems like we could not do anything because they would not listen to us. So we have to bring somebody nationally in also to give help because they see the problems also.

FRANKEN: Now, you are the one who is saying that the curfew should have ended after one night. The police are saying they're not going to do that. Is it realistic to believe that after just one night things would have calmed down?

HARVEY: Well, I really believe that what happened last night, the break-ins or the whatever, that is probably a normal thing.

FRANKEN: So you don't believe that the curfew really accomplished anything at all?

HARVEY: No, no. Well, no, I shouldn't say that. Yes, it did help a little bit, but not that much.

FRANKEN: Reverend H.L. Harvey, who is one of the leaders of the effort here to try -- and finally after a period of time, everybody agrees that there has not really been a dialogue over the decades between the African-American community and city officials. They now believe that they have an opening year because of what has occurred to establish one. And the Reverend Harvey is somebody who has been very much involved in that, Daryn.

KAGAN: Bob Franken in Cincinnati, thank you.

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