Cincinnati has matured in its response to racially charged incidents since it experienced riots in 2001, the Cincinnati Enquirer says. The newspaper reconstructs the events that led to the death of 342-pound Nathaniel Jones Nov. 30 as police officers were trying to restrain him.
When city manager Valerie Lemmie was told agbout the case shortly after 6 a.m. last Sunday, she recognized immediately that Jones’ death would stir emotions still tender two years after the police shooting of Timothy Thomas, another unarmed African-American, which ignited a week of protest and violence.
The Enquirer says that Cincinnati has changed since 2001. A federal investigation led to police reforms, and civil-rights activists and city officials signed an agreement to improve race relations. Events in past week have shown that other things are different as well. Police and city officials quickly released the videotapes from the scene and transcripts of police radio chatter in an attempt to give full disclosure to the public. Early meetings between Police Chief Tom Streicher and black leaders were conducted with handshakes rather than rage. Black ministers called for justice and urged calm.
Today, Cincinnati mayor Charlie Luken will announce a plan to cut 34 city jobs to pay for $1 million in Tasers for police officers. Luken said the city has applied for a federal grant to buy the electronic shock devices to subdue suspects but can’t wait any longer. Middle-management job losses would occur through attrition.
“To tout [Tasers] as a use-of-force panacea for all situations is a mistake,” Luken said. “But I think it’s incumbent upon us to realize that our police officers need the best technology available.” Luken said he has been disappointed in the small amount the city has received from the U.S. Department of Justice since the collaborative agreements were signed 18 months ago. Justice officials promised help in implementing the agreements’ changes.