Thursday 2016-01-28

Charlie Luken was mayor of Cincinnati during the Timothy Thomas riots of 2001.

CL: When I became mayor in 2000, it was clear that the city had a very serious police-community relations problem, and I talked about it but nobody paid any attention until the young man was shot, Timothy Thomas. Then the riots happened for three days, and then people got more serious about corrective action.

Q: How did you go about reforming Cincinnati’s police department?

CL: I invited the Justice Department to town, which was not a real popular decision, but it was a good one. The teaching, the lessons, just have to do with police training and transparency. If I look at Chicago from 10,000 feet, I would say they never got the transparency part or really all of the police-training part. [With Timothy Thomas,] they had a guy who was got out of a mental hospital, and he had a brick. A bunch of police surrounded him and shot and killed him. Obviously there are alternative ways to handle that...

Q: I imagine it was hard for you as the mayor to convince a huge group of career officers to change their methods.

A: The brass used to say to me, “You know, I was here before you, and I’ll be here after you.” They were generally right about that. The interesting thing is over the few years that we e ngaged in this process, the Fraternal Order of Police and most of the police brass went from rejecting this process and fighting any changes to really embracing it.

-- Atlantic City Lab