- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

Six Cincinnati police officers who were involved in a deadly fracas with a black suspect on Sunday were “treated like suspects,” a police union spokesman said yesterday.

Roger Webster, Fraternal Order of Police president, said officers might again “de-police,” or refrain from actively pursuing criminals, as they did after a public outcry over a spate of deaths of black suspects two years ago. A local crime wave resulted.

“It is a very real possibility,” said Roger Webster, Fraternal Order of Police president. “These folks on the street are under more of a microscope here than any other place in the world, it seems.”

“These guys came back from the brink of adversity and they are doing an outstanding job, and then they are treated like this when they were actually the victims.”

Local black activists called the death of 41-year-old Nathaniel Jones, a man who carried 400 pounds on his 5-foot-6 frame, one more example of racially tinged brutality involving Cincinnati police.

“The main issue for me is how police have done things in America, not just here in Cincinnati. And too often, African-American men are the ones on the receiving end, and too often, police are exonerated,” said the Rev. Damon Lynch III, who has led Cincinnati’s black community in a battle against what it calls the abuse of authority by police.

“I wish they were trained as well in negotiation as they are in using their” night sticks, he said.

The officers, five white and one black, subdued Mr. Jones during the incident outside a White Castle fast-food restaurant.

The officers were read their rights and detained for eight hours, Mr. Webster said, after the suspect died at a local hospital.

“They were treated like the criminals when they were the ones being attacked,” Mr. Webster said. “These guys are asking me why they were read their rights when they were the victims. They want to know why they are being treated this way.”

All six officers are on administrative leave — the standard procedure for cases involving the death of a suspect.

Police department spokesman Lt. Kurt Byrd said a slowdown was not likely.

“These officers now have the support of the mayor, the city manager and the police chief,” Lt. Byrd said. “That was not the case back then.”

Mayor Charlie Luken yesterday told reporters that he had seen a tape recorded by one of the police cruisers on the scene and there was “nothing on those tapes to suggest that the police did anything wrong.”

The video shows two officers approaching the suspect, who then lunges at one of the officers. The suspect appears to grab at the night sticks of the officers as they command him to put his hands behind his back.

As the suspect falls to the ground, below the camera frame, officers are seen striking him using their sticks as spears.

Hamilton County Coroner Carl Parrott said a preliminary autopsy showed Mr. Jones had ingested cocaine and PCP, both of which can cause bizarre or aggressive behavior.

Cincinnati, a 46 percent black city of 331,000, has endured years of racial strife, and its 1,054-officer police department has been at the center of the controversy.

The fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by a white officer in April 2001 prompted three nights of rioting, which involved the beatings of several unarmed whites by black gangs. Police arrested 837 persons during the violence, and 62 were charged with felonies.

After the rioting, police began a slowdown that saw arrests plunge by more than 50 percent over a two-month period. Violent crime jumped, especially in the predominantly black Over-the-Rhine area just north of downtown.

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