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Cincinnati Police Chief Holds Press Conference

Aired April 14, 2001 - 09:14   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, we've been watching the situation in Cincinnati very closely, and the police chief there, Thomas Streicher, is just about to address reporters and give us an update on the situation there. This a tense day as they prepare to bury the black man who was shot by a white police officer, sparking the violence. A curfew has ensued. Let's listen in.


CHIEF THOMAS STREICHER, CINCINNATI POLICE DEPARTMENT: ... everyone for being here this morning. We have some information we'd like to share with you from overnight, some things we believe are very, very positive aspects.

And first thing I'd like to do is introduce who's here. Before you at the table to my far right is the Honorable Charles Luken, mayor of the city of Cincinnati. To my immediate right is Lieutenant Colonel Watson from the Ohio State Patrol. To my immediate left is Lieutenant Colonel Richard Janke (ph). He's an assistant chief here and been in charge of tactical operations for our police division. Lieutenant Colonel Everhart (ph) from the Ohio State Patrol. And to my far left is Lieutenant Colonel Ron Twitty (ph), who's an assistant chief in charge of patrol bureau, which is about 80 of the Cincinnati Police Division, all uniformed services here.

First thing I'd like to do is express my thanks to the Ohio State Patrol and the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department for their profound assistance over the last 48 hours. In fact, the sheriff's office has been here with us since the very beginning. I'd also like to acknowledge the American Red Cross. They are still with us 24 hours a day, and they are providing services throughout the entire of Cincinnati, in fact have reached into some of the counties.

Overnight, we had a total of 218 total arrests as of about 7:45 this morning. That is a total for the last 24 hours of about 218 arrests. There were 200 adult curfew arrests. We have 16 juvenile arrests, 12 for curfew violations and four for other violations. We arrested one adult for a robbery offense, and we arrested one adult for a burglary offense overnight.

There were a number of sporadic incidents that occurred last night. We did experience shots fired incidents in all five districts here in the city of Cincinnati. We had a few incidents where some rocks and bottles were thrown, and a few incidents where there was some general disorder due to some crowds that had gotten out and around.

None of the crowds got extremely out of order. None of the small crowds that we encountered really posed any tremendous problems to us. Overall, when I consider everything that occurred over the past 24 hours, we're again this morning extremely encouraged by the cooperation of the citizens here in the city and believe that the overnight operations were an extreme success last night.

Moving forward to today, the funeral for Mr. Thomas starts at 11:30 this morning. It's at the -- excuse me -- New Prospect Church at Stimley (ph) and Elm Street this morning. I'm sure you're all familiar with exactly where that is. We anticipate a fairly significant crowd to be there. The church itself holds about 400 people. Reverend Damon Lynch (ph) will be in charge of the funeral. He has assisted us tremendously during this week, and we've been in touch with Reverend Lynch on a continuing basis. He is a -- he is -- he is continuing to support us and also continuing to facilitate a number of positive actions here in the city.

The actions of the police division today will be to assist the church in facilitating the funeral today. We also anticipate that a fairly significant crowd will probably be outside the church and in the general area. We are prepared to assist those people in facilitating whatever movement they deem necessary and assisting them in whatever they wish to do today as long as it is legal conduct.

O'BRIEN: All right, we've been listening to Chief Thomas Streicher with the Cincinnati Police Department as he addresses reporters there. Obviously we're watching the situation very closely in that city as they contend with what has been a very volatile situation in the wake of the shooting of Mr. Thomas.

And why don't we turn it over to CNN's Bob Franken, who is also in Cincinnati? It seems like a fair amount of housekeeping being dealt with there today, Bob, almost a matter-of-fact tone. Does that belie the actual atmosphere in the city right now?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the police chief is somebody who normally speaks in that kind of tone. It's very tense here, there's no doubt about it, which of is -- certainly is an indication of why there is a curfew. He had not told us yet whether the curfew would be extended another day, but we can say with a strong degree of certainty that it will be.

This is considered the, quote, "crucial" day, according to the police chief, the day that the funeral service is going to be held. You heard him a moment ago describing the location of the church. Well, here we are. It's the New Prospect Baptist Church. It's in the neighborhood that's really been the focus of all this. Just a couple of blocks away is where Timothy Thomas was actually shot a week ago, which caused the uprising that resulted, then, in the curfew, which has now been in effect for two nights.

We were on the streets last night as we've been every night. These very small crowds that he discussed were really just groups of two or three people. As you can see, those who do not have a very specific reason for being outside, a legal reason, were arrested. It would happen very quickly. The police officers, local police along with state highway patrolmen and county sheriffs, would go in large groups, and they would continuously patrol the city. And if there were any problems, they would make arrests.

And as you can see, they would also be very concerned about sniper fire. They would constantly be on the alert, looking to the roofs. There would be a helicopter overhead doing the same kind of thing.

So in answer to your question, Miles, it is very, very tense here, but this is the day that people believe is going to define this situation, the funeral service will begin at 11:30 this morning with the viewing of the body, and then the actual services, in Eastern time, will be 1:30 this afternoon.

There will be a variety of other events going on. Martin Luther King III is going to be at another church later this afternoon addressing the congregation there. Remember, this is the Holy Weekend. There's also going to be a visit to Cincinnati, we're told, by Al Sharpton, the New York civil rights leader. Among those attending the services here this morning, the Ohio governor, Bob Taft.

So this is going on on a variety of levels. One, there is very, very heavy security, a lot of tension, as you pointed out. In addition to which, there are efforts under way to try and establish the dialogue that members of the African-American community have said is so long overdue, a dialogue to try and undo the hostility that everybody acknowledges between the Cincinnati Police Department and the African-American community.

But this is the day, the key day, as Timothy Thomas is buried and the city starts trying to deal with the problems that caused this very serious situation -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: Bob, before you get away, any time police are confronted with a situation like this, they have to strike a balance between the desire to impose aggressive force and the concern that that very force would precipitate violence. Do you get the sense that police there are cognizant of that and have that in check?

FRANKEN: They have been very aware of it. The atmosphere has really changed. Two nights ago, which was the worst night of the violence, we were on the streets, and oftentimes the tension on both sides would result in anger, sometimes directed toward members of the media and the cameras. But as they went on, they settled down a little bit. They really organized. They came in large groups, convoys that were enforcing this curfew.

And it became almost calm., even the arrests were calm.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you very much, CNN's Bob Franken. Obviously we'll be checking in with him frequently all throughout the morning and throughout the day.



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