- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2001

CINCINNATI — Police Officer Doug Frazier profiled the hooker.
The 26-year-old blond woman, wearing a skirt slit to the top of her thigh, was strolling leisurely through a drenching rain in the early morning hours. Her domain was Cincinnati's beleaguered Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, a 4-square-mile mixture of squalor and urban rehabilitation.
She was walking through the squalor.
"That was a classic case of profiling," Officer Frazier said after booking the woman on a probation violation charge. She had been arrested five times for solicitation in the past year.
"I profile," Officer Frazier continued. "I do criminal profiles. If someone looks like they might be doing criminal activity, I talk to them."
"At least that's what we used to do."
Cincinnati police are in the middle of a polarizing political battle. The force is seen by many as merely watching while the city's crime rate has climbed since three days of riots in April shook this traditionally low-crime city of 331,000. Perhaps most pointedly, they are accused of racial profiling.
The department is being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union. It is being investigated by both the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Three Cincinnati police officers this year have been indicted on various charges of malfeasance, and the entire department has been accused by several black community leaders of racial profiling and outright racism.
The fallout has left many in the city's 1,000-officer force "shell-shocked," according to one policeman.
"I have to ask myself, 'Am I willing to go the extra mile any more if this is what is going to happen,'" said Officer John Vaughn, Officer Frazier's patrol partner and a 10-year veteran of the force. "I'm not sure. We aren't as likely to now."
Several officers talk of the upcoming trial of "Steve," their comrade in District 1, which includes Over-the-Rhine. Officer Steve Roach is a white officer who faces a Sept. 17 trial on misdemeanor manslaughter charges in the April 7 shooting of a fleeing black suspect in Over-the-Rhine.
The death of Timothy Thomas, 19, sparked three days of rioting that tore up parts of Over-the-Rhine and prompted demands from the city's formidable black leadership. The demands included the removal of both Police Chief Thomas Streicher and police union President Keith Fangman.
Both men are white. Both men even attended the same high school, Elder. They are still in office today.

Cops as villains
"The cops have been villainized," says Chris Frutkin, president of the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce. "The police are really in a thankless position now," Mr. Frutkin says. "If you are a cop wearing your hat and badge, you don't want to be walking down the street."
The riots drove several businesses from the area just north of downtown and gave further jitters to those who have stuck it out.
Strong-arm robberies are up in those more gentrified areas, where white entrepreneurs have taken to the area for its Gothic architecture and low rent.
Black-on-black crime has become almost routine; since the April disturbances, 100 such shootings have occurred.
"It's like we're baby-sitting their own neighborhood for them," Officer Frazier says, pulling his cruiser up to a group of youths standing two deep in the doorway of a shuttered storefront on Race Street around 1 a.m. The officer says nonchalantly that they are selling crack.
The one in front, with a red headband and a black football jersey, glares back. Another kid, maybe 14 years old, wears a white T-shirt with the words "Official Cincinnati Police Target" emblazoned on the back, transposed over a drawing of a target.
The black teen-agers stare down the patrol cars. Some cops have been shot, with one taking a bullet on his belt buckle. He lived.
Mayor Charlie Luken said Aug. 16 that the city has "turned the corner" in its post-riot violent spell. That evening, two more persons were shot.
"They used to punch each other," says a waitress at Kaldi's, a bookstore/cafe on Main Street, where black gangster hopefuls and white bohemians are trying to exist side-by-side. "Now they have guns, and they shoot each other."
On WDBZ-AM, the local black radio station known as the Buzz, a caller refers to the police as "outsiders" in the black community.
That would include Officers Frazier and Vaughn, who are both black.
"I was shot at during the riots," Officer Frazier said, matter-of-factly. "They shoot at us, and it's a fairly new thing. I never would have thought of giving any to police when I was a kid. But things are different now."

Police: 'We are accountable'
Dave D'Erminio heard a joke the other day at a bar frequented by cops. The former officer comes by occasionally, having served on the Cincinnati force from 1967 to 1990.
"A cop is sitting watching a traffic light," Mr. D'Erminio relates in his gristly Midwestern accent. "A car with its windows tinted goes through a red light. The cop pulls the car over, gets up to the car, and there's a black woman driving. She says, 'You pulled me over because I'm a black woman.'
"The cop says, "Move along.'"
Mr. D'Erminio remembers a simpler past when he could enforce the law with an iron hand. Hardly politically correct, he says, but efficient and effective.
He notes that street officers in Cincinnati are facing trouble for every "self-initiated contact," which means any time an officer acts instead of reacts to a situation.
"These guys can lose their jobs, their careers and disrupt their families," Mr. D'Erminio says. "The average taxpayer has no idea what is going on."
Police will gladly tell you that the force has some bad people — the department has tried to get rid of 11 since 1996. But each one has been reinstated through arbitration.
That fact gets repeated through the neighborhoods, and the word spreads that rogue cops can stay, as long as they appeal their case.
"That's not true," says Mr. Fangman, sitting in his office in the Fraternal Order of Police building, 12 blocks north of District 1 headquarters where he was once a patrol officer.
"We have made mistakes, and we are accountable. We have three officers awaiting trial," he said "We have four former officers who are sitting in state jail right now for crimes committed while they were here.
"If that is not being held accountable, what is?"
But the union official prominently displays a memento from the riots to remind him what police are up against.
Hanging on a bookcase is a plastic placard that denounces the police uses an obscenity. The three-word phrase is taken from a song by the rap stars NWA.
"I found that hanging on the door here during the riots," Mr. Fangman says.
But police have also committed some public relations blunders, by their own admission.
The Cincinnati Enquirer uncovered several hundred public complaints that the city claimed did not exist.
And their reticence to police more aggressively in recent weeks has prompted some denizens of Over-the-Rhine to question the officers' dedication.
"If they were slowing down their arrests just to show us what it is like, that is a really bad idea," said one white resident and business owner, who did not want to be identified. "It has been bad here after the riots. And we know that. So they can come back and do what they were doing before. Now."
Added Paul Sebron, a black business owner: "We do our job here. We call the police when there is trouble and we expect that they will do their job."
But Assistant Police Chief Ron Twitty said the issue is not as simple as that.
"It was not a slowdown. But there has been a decline in self-initiated stops," he said. "We have officers whose wives are asking them not to put themselves at risk. And they mean by stopping someone, the risk is being sued, or investigated."


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