When a police suspect shot himself in Cincinnati on Monday night, prompting angry neighbors to begin shooting at police, the officers didn’t fire back. Instead, reports the Cincinnati Enquirer, they called for help – from neighborhood monitors with the city’s Human Relations Commission.
One was Hilliard Herring, the long-time manager of the neighborhood community center. When Herring talks, people here listen – and believe what he says. Herring and 20 other commission monitors immediately hit the streets to dispel a rumor that officers had killed the suspect.
The monitors’ role – as it was after the riots three years ago and after Nathaniel Jones’ death in November after a struggle with police – was to get the truth out to residents. Police chief Tom Streicher credited the monitors with helping quell Monday night’s short but intense melee. It was the sixth or seventh time in about two months officers have been shot at. “There’s so many guns out there,” he said, “it’s unbelievable.”
Police and monitors say many residents in the community are more likely to believe monitors – most of whom either live or work in city neighborhoods and are minorities – than police or other city officials. “It’s a totally different culture that (the monitors) have to relate to,” said Cecil Thomas of the Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, which oversees the monitor program. “They speak the language.”