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State of the Shitty: Hoping for the Best with the Hate Crimes Ordinance

By Kathy Y. Wilson · February 12th, 2003 · Your Negro Tour Guide
This do in remembrance of him. Just in time for Black History Month, Cincinnati pays homage (and penance) to Gregory Beauchamp -- gay, black, proud and bashed to death on New Year's Eve on his way to party like it's 1999.

Perhaps fed up and pressed to show itself humane, city council expanded the existing hate crime law in secret honor of Beauchamp, no longer resting in anonymity at No. 65 (see

It's soooo Cincinnati and equally paternalistic that the cops would 1) work when they want to, despite increases in hiring and overtime, and 2) manipulate us with high-impact arrest numbers amassed only after they've resumed chasing bad guys.

You don't get dap and slapped on the back for doing your job. And don't gimme no lip about police work being hard and dangerous. At what point did you realize that -- when you were trained to fire a gun?

People I know who work with cops whispered months ago that many officers openly told them that they'd refused to engage the public unless dispatched to specific calls.

And even then they'd take their sweet time.

The body can only be as sick as the head. That means we're congested with a case of Chief Tom Streicher, who might or might not be sending clear messages to the men and women in his ranks.

The squishiness of his leadership allows implications to run rampant. Further, also-ran psuedoquasiesque leaders like the president and vice president of the Fraternal Order of Police -- I refuse to name them -- probably have a tighter hold on the ears of our officers.

Are you yet sensing an imbalance of citywide power? How about this? If the police continue playing red light/green light with law enforcement, it doesn't necessarily mean an expanded hate crime ordinance will add any heft.

If you're wondering, I'm as warm and fuzzy about the ordinance as the next citizen. I'm pleasantly surprised it passed.

I'm equally surprised the vote, 7-2, got yes nods from the trio of Negroes on council. I assumed them beholden to the homophobia of their respective church homes. Why? Because black churches aren't always petri dishes for tolerance and universal love.

I have questions: Will cops now be trained or have the presence of mind to investigate crimes appropriately as hate crimes since they didn't as recently as Dec. 31, 2002, when Beauchamp was murdered? Will they report such statistics to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a voluntary act, so the FBI's statistics can track Ohio's hate crime numbers?

If the cops continue "sweeping" and then trotting out arrest statistics like law enforcers in a new democracy, we'll soon know whether or not it's back to same as it ever was. If, on the other hand, they buckle down and resume doing their jobs without the self-inflicted fanfare, Beauchamp won't be headed to certain martyrdom. And we'll have done something for which we can puff up our chests.

Otherwise, it's back to living in irony.

How ironic, for example, that city council sped itself up to pass the hate crimes ordinance -- displaying the clearest example of unity in recent memory -- while the police force is making a spectacle of exhibiting any. Force, that is.

What a lopsided, power-starved equation.

In mathematics that's a negative integer. Less than zero.

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.


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