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FOP and Shirey: Going for the Knockout?

By Nancy Firor and Katie Taft · May 27th, 1999 · Burning Questions
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Continuing controversies over police shootings in Cincinnati are proof that the city -- or at least some of its media outlets -- has a short memory.

The city's morning daily along with some of its TV news reporters have been heralding an Office of Municipal Investigations report, released May 19, as a definitive answer that a Cincinnati police officer wrongly shot and killed motorist Michael Carpenter in March.

It takes a close examination of some news reports to learn that investigations into the shooting still are underway by the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and the city's Internal Investigations Section.

The Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) is a watchdog arm of the city, which, independent of citizens' police panels, investigates complaints and questions about officer misconduct.

Hasn't OMI historically found fault with officers in contradiction to the findings of investigations by the city's Internal Investigations Section, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and other investigative bodies?

A knowledgeable source isn't needed to answer this question, to which the answer is yes. A quick perusal of recent history shows that instances where OMI contradicted other investigations that cleared officers include criticisms of one officer involved in the 1997 shooting of Lorenzo Collins, an escaped mental patient, the 1995 scuffle with teen-ager Pharon Crosby and the shooting death of Walter Brown in the early 1990s.

Why does the media have such a short memory?

"Controversy sells news print and TV air time. ," said Keith Fangman, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) chapter that represents Cincinnati officers. Continuing controversies over police shootings in Cincinnati are proof that the city -- or at least some of its media outlets -- has a short memory.

The city's morning daily along with some of its TV news reporters have been heralding an Office of Municipal Investigations report, released May 19, as a definitive answer that a Cincinnati police officer wrongly shot and killed motorist Michael Carpenter in March.

It takes a close examination of some news reports to learn that investigations into the shooting still are underway by the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and the city's Internal Investigations Section.

The Office of Municipal Investigation (OMI) is a watchdog arm of the city, which, independent of citizens' police panels, investigates complaints and questions about officer misconduct.

Hasn't OMI historically found fault with officers in contradiction to the findings of investigations by the city's Internal Investigations Section, the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office and other investigative bodies?

A knowledgeable source isn't needed to answer this question, to which the answer is yes. A quick perusal of recent history shows that instances where OMI contradicted other investigations that cleared officers include criticisms of one officer involved in the 1997 shooting of Lorenzo Collins, an escaped mental patient, the 1995 scuffle with teen-ager Pharon Crosby and the shooting death of Walter Brown in the early 1990s.

Why does the media have such a short memory?

"Controversy sells news print and TV air time. ... ," said Keith Fangman, president of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) chapter that represents Cincinnati officers. "It's no fun to have a story that says OMI's report doesn't amount to a hill of beans."

But the FOP, which has been critical of City Manager John Shirey's handling of the recent Carpenter investigation, is more concerned that the OMI report has been released before the other investigations are complete.

It is a reflection, Fangman said, that OMI reports directly to Shirey.

The report itself, he said, "Is really nothing short of a joke. ... It is riddled with personal opinion and supposition and clearly ignores Supreme Court case law" that says an officer has the right to use force, even deadly force, when he or she is thrust into a life and death encounter in which he or she has to make a split-second decision, Fangman said.

Fangman said FOP members were outraged at comments made by OMI's chief investigator that it was the opinion of OMI that perhaps Officer Brent McCurly, who shot Carpenter, was not in as much fear for his life at the time as he actually thought he was.

Also outrageous, Fangman said, was OMI's contention that Officer Michael Miller II was dragged by Carpenter's car possibly because Carpenter's foot accidentally slipped off the brake, as though OMI was there to witness the event and had some form of scientific evidence, Fangman said.

But an equally serious issue of contention, Fangman said, is that Shirey released the OMI report before the other reports when in past cases there has been a lengthy wait. Most notably, he said, was the 15 months it took to issue OMI's report on the cut-and-dried case of Officer Katie Conway who shot and killed a gunman, after he shot her.

"Strangely, Shirey was able to get the Carpenter review pushed through in two months. ... We think Shirey is using this report ... to try to take some heat off of himself because of some intense criticism he's been under from the FOP, the media and some members of council."

Is that true?

Absolutely not, Shirey said. And, he said, the assertion illustrates just how imaginative Fangman is getting with his allegations.

"I released the report when it was done," he said.

As procedure dictates, the homicide unit's report was forwarded to the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office, and the city has no control over when that investigation will be released. The city's Internal Investigations Section's report has not been finished, and therefore, has not been released, Shirey said.

In addition, Shirey said he had received a stack of public records requests from the media, demanding the release of the OMI report, which dictated the report's release as soon as it was available.

"If I would have withheld the report, I would have been breaking the law," Shirey said.

Is breaking the law something the FOP would have the city manager do?, Shirey asked.

 
 
 
 

 

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