Last April, stores in some parts of Cincinnati were looted, property was destroyed and whites who were passing through black neighborhoods were attacked and injured. Blacks, angered by the death of a black youth who had been killed by a police officer, ran amok. Their rage had been fed by harangues of black leaders, several of them from other parts of the country, and news reports saying that 15 blacks had been shot to death by Cincinnati police since 1995.
It was rarely mentioned that in nine of those cases the victims were armed with guns or struggling to get a gun, in three cases they were holding objects that could be used to inflict bodily harm and in one a black police officer was being dragged by a car in which his arm was caught. Both the officer and the driver died. The most recent death was one of two where the conduct of the police officer was questionable. The record of Cincinnati’s police force was far cleaner than that of many other communities around the country. The violent reaction of the blacks was unexpected and hard to explain.
Cincinnati paid a high price for the killing of one juvenile delinquent. Ironically, much of that price is being paid in blood. Since the riot, crime has soared in Cincinnati. As of July 27, eleven people, all blacks, have been killed, and 82 have been shot and wounded. The most recent killing, on July 27, was the result of a police officer shooting a black who had fired at him with a sawed-off shotgun. Through July 25, the homicides for the year totaled 28. That is 56 percent higher than the total for the same period last year.
Angela Leisure, the mother of the youth whose killing by a police officer set off the rioting, was quoted by the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying, “I mourn not only for my son, but for all the people who have lost their lives over the past two months…..There are still a lot of problems with our police department and our city officials. But we also need to realize that these problems weren’t created and can’t be solved overnight. The more you push and push and push, that’s when the cause that got us to this point gets lost.” She said that the violence is a sign that there is no real respect for police officers and that city and community leaders must take steps to restore respect.
Mayor Charlie Luken has said that the police are not being proactive in dealing with crime because they have not felt like they had the support of the community. He says, “We need more than anything community support for proactive policing. There is not a city in America that doesn’t rely on cooperation between citizens and police to solve crime problems.”
Cincinnati is 43 percent black, and Mayor Luken has appealed to the Rev. Damon Lynch III, a prominent black leader, to assure the police that his Black United Front will not criticize the police for using legitimate force to halt the violence. But Lynch has not agreed to do so. Appearing on ABC’s “Nightline,” he was asked if he would support the police taking action against violent criminals. He responded that it wasn’t up to him to tell the police how to do their jobs.
Alan Colmes, the liberal co-host of Fox News Channel’s “Hannity & Colmes” show opened a discussion of the Cincinnati situation on July 25 with the charge that the police were engaging in “a work slow-down because they are afraid of being called racist.” He called it outrageous. Guest Bill Cunningham, a conservative talk show host on Cincinnati’s WLW, responded, saying, “The police in Cincinnati now recognize reality. Black leadership does not want the kind of policing Cincinnati had for over 100 years.” He said it started with blacks like Al Sharpton and Kweisi Mfume descending on the city and whipping so many residents into a froth. Charles Barron, a black guest, said the officers who were not doing their jobs should be fired. He said that white officers are murdering blacks and getting away with it. The Rev. Damon Lynch III refuses to promise that his organization will not criticize the police for using force to end the violence. Being sued, investigated, prosecuted and shot at, the Cincinnati police are being cautious. As a result, since mid-April Cincinnati’s criminals have killed over three blacks per month compared to less than three per year killed by the city’s police since 1995.