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A Town Without Pity

By Kathy Y. Wilson · February 20th, 2013 · Kathy Y. Wilson
nyntg 2-20
For real?

Norwood hasn’t been the same since the General Motors Assembly Plant, built in 1925 on farmland once owned by Norwood settler Joseph Langdon, closed in mid-1988 after GM announced its devastating closing in early November 1986, making Norwood one of 11 such plants across Ohio, Michigan, Missouri and Illinois to go dark and leaving 29,000 people unemployed between the four states.

The Norwood shutdown displaced 4,300 workers alone (1,000 of whom lived within Norwood city limits), eradicating one-third of the city’s operating budget and one-fifth of the city’s money for its schools.

Citing record employee absenteeism, poor quality control and record low output, GM spared its Van Nuys, Calif., plant by throwing Norwood’s under the bus. 

The tsunami-like effect of the Norwood closing went like this: Norwood Mayor Joseph E. Sanker immediately slashed fire and police rosters and services and then-Cincinnati City Councilman Steve Chabot suggested annexing Norwood to Cincinnati, but then-Mayor Charles Luken wouldn’t hear of it.

In 1986, 26,000 people lived in Norwood; barely more than 19,000 people lived there in 2010, according to the U.S. Census. 

Though Norwood is merely five miles north of downtown’s city center, it may as well be smack dab in another time and another place with its barely-there lane lines, its shameful-but-glaring classism and racism for a city its size and its perpetually broke and broke-down demeanor since GM abandoned its aging and trouble-ridden plant there.

Norwood has struggled and limped along all these years but should have gotten resuscitated by all the tax revenue to its limp-wristed operating budget when Rookwood Commons was built in 1997 — in Norwood, by the way, and not Hyde Park — and all the land around it cleared through eminent domain to make way for the ever-expanding commercial sites off the I-71 exits belonging to Norwood.

However, part of the living genealogy of the plant’s closing is the behavior of Norwood’s police department. 

Perhaps still threadbare of staff, its officers are behaving like racist, brutish rogues.

Where do they come from?

Worse still and just as stupefying, they are behaving as though lobby cameras aren’t in place and recording their every shove, slam, kick and merciless takedown of citizens.

Of course, if an economic downturn is no reason or excuse for police brutality, then what is?

Ask the victims.

Thirty-year-old Denise Diallo, a black woman from Lexington, Ky., came into the Norwood Police Department last Aug.

11 to inquire about some property from another case, and when she was told “nothing could be done,” she slammed the lobby phone against the wall. Burly, no-neck, 16-year veteran Officer Robert Ward, built like a retired linebacker with his buzz-cut hair and his head the size of a hormone-infused honey dew melon, entered the lobby and tried to place Diallo under arrest. Diallo tried to run away and was taken down by Ward and another officer. Diallo kicked and scratched at them and was taken to a holding room where Ward threw Diallo — handcuffed — into a wall, breaking her arm in full view of a camera.

After a special prosecutor reviewed the case, Ward pleaded no contest, resigned and was sentenced last November to a 180-day suspended sentence, 60 days on house arrest and one year of probation.

Trespassing and resisting arrest charges against Diallo were dropped, but her lawsuit is pending.

And the hits just keep on coming.

From Ward.

Yet another case of Ward’s brand of excessive force under the camera’s glare has come to light. 

Ward picked up Claude Henderson, a dreadlocked black man, while Ward was still a Norwood police officer.

Henderson was walking near Surrey Square in pre-dawn darkness and Ward stopped and arrested him and took him to the Norwood Police Department only to issue him a citation for disorderly conduct. 

As Henderson was leaving, he checked his wallet and noticed $10 was missing. When he returned to inquire about his missing money, Ward, flying into a rage, emerged from a side door and ran after Henderson, a man of average build. 

Ward grabbed Henderson from behind by the shoulders and slammed him forward into the partially metal counter of the lobby’s desk. Then, Ward turned Henderson around and threw him to the ground, landing on top of him as another officer showed up to assist.

Henderson is right in being shocked by the blatant brutality caught on camera. What if, he wondered, this had happened on a side street, dark alley ... with no witnesses.

“I could’ve been beaten, Tased or shot to death,” Henderson told a news reporter.

The numbers don’t match up.

Sixteen years on the force for Ward and only two such instances of excessive force resulting in criminal charges and lawsuits?


I am left wondering how many more people have survived a shove or a slam to the ground in Norwood but were too afraid to speak up, and if they lived in Norwood they may have been intimidated or bullied or threatened into keeping quiet.

There are now two lawsuits against Ward, an unemployed rageaholic, and the city of Norwood — always bellyaching about its empty purses — will probably be named as co-defendant.

As it should be.

No police department in America has in its ranks an officer like Ward and isn’t aware of that officer’s problems in the streets and the potential liability he brings with him.

A sure way Norwood can cure its image problems and keep from going broke in one fell swoop is to stop “training,” hiring and retaining officers like Ward; get in front of what is already a hellish situation by not dodging reporters’ calls and, finally, end the nepotism running rampant within its borders.

The Police’s PR man is Tom Williams, Jr.

The mayor is Tom Williams, Sr.

They’re not talking publicly about Ward, the suits against him or the further stain he’s leaving on an already blemished and hardscrabble city.

But maybe they can talk about it over dinner, father-to-son.

CONTACT KATHY Y. WILSON: letters@citybeat.com



02.21.2013 at 12:24 Reply

Could you have possibly been any more negative and insulting to the City of Norwood?  One man does not make a Police Dept. or city.


02.21.2013 at 10:27 Reply

Bum rush the Norwood police department and give them taste of their own medicine. What else can you do when the people who are supposed to defend us from crime are themselves racist criminals with badges?


02.21.2013 at 10:28 Reply

One man does not make a police department, that is true. But the whole department, evidently, stood silent and allowed this racist pig to serve for 16 years.


02.22.2013 at 12:30 Reply

Maybe if Ms Diallo hadn't "slammed the lobby phone against the wall" then the"burly, no-neck, 16 year veteran .....built like a retired linebacker with his buzz-cut hair and his head the size of a hormone-infused honey dew melon" wouldnt have had to respond to Ms Dialloat all.  Ms. Wilson, you, my dear, are a racist.


02.23.2013 at 08:46 Reply

I have to say, I am truly disgusted with both the writer of this article and some of the comments. 

First off, do any of you people actually know Officer Ward or have ever met him? Have any of you actually put two braincells together to think... "hmmm... maybe there is A LOT more to the story than just what is being leaked to the press?"

Norwood Police DOES NOT hire racist pigs nor do they train their officers to be racist pigs. Think about what happened in both incidents. 

Both of the people making complaints were acting like fools and RESISTING arrest. The report even shows THAT woman screaming, kicking, biting, etc. 



03.15.2013 at 12:07

Melissa, you clearly don't know what you're talking about.  First of all, a majority of Norwood police officers ARE racist.  I've experienced this on numerous occasions as I've had friends in Norwood for years, and would visit them on a regular basis. I also conduct business in Norwood, lived there briefly for a few months, worked at Zumbiel packaging plant, and would frequent many establishments regularly.

A case in point that comes to mind is when a friend of mine's son came home escorted by a Norwood police officer because apparently he and a couple of his buddies were approached by some other boys who allegedly attempted to fight/intimidate them.  I was using the restroom when the officer came in and could hear what was going on while I washed my hands.  When the mother (my friend) asked who it was that threatened her son, the officer responded "Just a bunch of Blacks", which was just the moment I came out of the bathroom.  White faced, wide-eyed, and embarrassed, the officer stood frozen as I gave him a look that suggested to ask the question "Just a bunch of what?!"  Since it wasn't my house, and I didn't want to bring any undue trouble upon my friend, I didn't say anything, but merely shook my head in disappointed disgust and went back upstairs to where some other friends and I had been conversing.
  Second, I was not being disorderly, nor resisting arrest, and definitely not acting a fool, which is why my case was thrown out; this video clearly demonstrates this: http://www.fox19.com/story/21230108/alleged-victim-suing-norwood-cop-for-police-brutality-speaks-out.

I simply urge that before you speak, you get the facts, and try spending some time in the place that you seem to think you know so much about.  Norwood is little more than a speed trap in the middle of Cincinnati.  Just ask some old-timers, and they'll tell you that Norwood cops used to place phone books up to people so that they could hit them with their batons without leaving bruises.  According to at least 5 people I've talked to, this was common practice.

Though it may not have been the most articulate article, it is wrought with truths.  Watch the video, and you can see for yourself what a Norwood definition of "disorderly" truly is.