July 13, 2001 (CINCINNATI)—Police in Cincinnati say there has been an epidemic of violence in some of the city’s neighborhoods since the April riots with about 70 shootings. Now, they are planning to do something to quell the bloodshed.
This week, Police Chief Thomas Streicher and Mayor Charles Luken announced the formation of an anti-violence task force. Details of how the plan will work are still sketchy. Lt. Ray Ruberg, public information officer for the Cincinnati police, said that the task force will cut across the city’s five police districts.
The plan is the result of a meeting this week (the week of July 9), between Streicher and Luken to discuss the shootings, Ruberg said.
Police also hope to involve the community in neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine, which was rocked by violence in April after demonstrations against the police turned into rioting. The protests were over the death of Timothy Dwyer, 19, an unarmed black man shot in a traffic stop. The riots were halted after the city imposed a curfew.
Leslie Isaiah Gaines, a former Hamilton County judge, is ready to be involved. Gaines, now the pastor of Everybody’s Tabernacle Church, is the founder of Stop Taking Out People, or STOP.
Gaines, like city officials, points to the riots as the beginning of the wave of shootings.
“The report on the street is there are a large number of guns stolen during the riots,” he said. “By talking to these young men on the streets, a lot of the violence is drug-related, some of it is turf-related and some of it is gang-related.”
Police officials suggested that officers have been unwilling to respond quickly and aggressively to trouble since April. Ruberg said that new regulations aimed at racial profiling have created a lot of paperwork.
When Luken announced the task force on Wednesday (July 11), he pleaded with residents to be nice to police officers, urging “acts of kindness.”
Gaines believes that most residents of Over-the-Rhine and similar neighborhoods welcome police efforts to curb the shootings.
“The people constantly want to make sure they are treated with dignity and rewpect,” he said. “I tell the people that respect is a two-way street. That way will decrease some of the friction.”
Gaines began walking the streets during the riot, trying to calm the city. At first, he patrolled by himself but in recent weeks he has been joined by a growing group, the STOP Squad. He is now forming the People’s Police Patrol.
“The young men that normally just stand around on the street corners wearing head rags and baggy pants, they’ll now help patrol their own inner-city streets,” he said.
This week, there were several shootings with a toll that included one man dead and four people hurt. Three police officers escaped without injury after being fired on in two separate incidents in a few days.
Gaines said he understands why police officers are nervous about leaving their squad cars. But he hopes they will be able to do so.
“On the days I have walked the streets and seen police out of their cars interacting with the people that seemed to do a lot of good for the morale of the citizens,” Gaines said.