- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 24, 2015

Ohio’s leaders on Sunday praised Cleveland as a “model” for peaceful protest after a white officer’s acquittal Saturday in the 2012 deaths of two unarmed black motorists reignited the debate over law enforcement and deadly force, though tensions remained high as leaders alternated between pleas for calm and calls for police reform.

Republican Gov. John Kasich commended weekend protesters for not resorting to the type of looting and destruction that marked racially tinged riots in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore.

“They should be so proud of themselves, and we should look at Cleveland as a model,” Mr. Kasich told ABC’s “This Week.”

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, the Ohio Democrat whose district includes Cleveland, offered similar praise but labeled Officer Michael Brelo’s acquittal a “stunning setback” for justice.

“The verdict is another chilling reminder of a broken relationship between the Cleveland Police Department and the community it serves,” Ms. Fudge said. “Today we have been told — yet again — our lives have no value.”

Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell of Cuyahoga County said Saturday that the state could not prove that shots by Officer Brelo killed Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, after a high-speed police chase on Nov. 29, 2012. Thirteen police officers fired 137 shots at the pair.

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson warned protesters to keep a lid on aggressive behavior, noting that 70 people were arrested late Saturday for activities that “crossed the line.” Streets returned to calm Sunday.

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James urged his city to rally its energies behind his team’s NBA playoff run instead of turning to violence.

“Violence is not the answer, and it’s all about trying to find a solution for good or for bad,” he said, according to ESPN, ahead of a Game 3 clash at home late Sunday against the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals.

The racially tinged unrest comes six months after Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy, was shot dead by Cleveland police after brandishing a replica of a handgun. A caller reported that someone, “probably a juvenile,” had been pointing a pistol at people in a park. Responding officers drove up and confronted Rice, shooting him within seconds of their arrival.

That incident added to a list of deaths of unarmed black men during encounters with police officers, sometimes sparking unrest: In Ferguson, a white officer has been cleared in the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in August, while six officers in Baltimore face criminal charges after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died of a spinal injury incurred in their custody in April.

Mr. Kasich said the Rice case “is something we of course are all watching,” and “we hope we’ll get a resolution, a decision on that, sooner rather than later.”

He noted that he set up a task force in December to review the use of deadly force by police and ways to recruit minorities into the police force.

“When there are large numbers of people who do not think the system works for them, and in some ways works against them, we have to respond to it,” Mr. Kasich said.


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