Community hopes for new police chief involvement

James Craig
James Craig

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - As the buzz grows within the Cincinnati Police Department about the arrival of the new chief, the anticipation is also growing on the streets of Cincinnati.

"I think it's a good thing that he's coming from outside of the system," said brother Tim Sucher of St. Francis Seraph Parish.

When we caught up with Sucher he was doing some yard work inside the walls of his parish in Over the Rhine.

"We've got a police chief who needs to be the police chief for all of Cincinnati," Sucher acknowledged. "However, it is significant in this point of time in our history that he is a man of color."

Sucher says racial tensions and police mistrust still runs high through the surrounding neighborhoods following the riots ten years ago. Sucher's good friend Greta Benton agrees.

"It was just unreal," Benton said as she recalled the 2001 riots. "It was unreal that was going on right outside my window because when I looked out there, and my grandchildren said it too, it looked like a war zone."

She says the scars from that time have still not healed on the streets of Over the Rhine.

While race has been cited as a major factor in police and community tensions, both agree the new chief may actually have a harder time building relationships in the African American community.

"Just average African Americans like me, they won't trust him," Benton said. "So many times they have gone to [an] African American who has power and they've been dumped on so they're not going to put themselves out there again, to be dumped on again."

"Hopefully the trust level can be built," Sucher said. "It's still going to take time. Nobody automatically has trust because of their color, or their personality or whatever."

Benton says the key will be for Craig to stay visible in the community saying regardless of his career history, he will be starting with a clean slate in the Queen City.

"He's talked about where he's been and what he's done," Benton said. "That's all well and good but it's going to take a while for it to catch up with him here."

Sucher understands a focus for Craig will be on decreasing violent crime in the city.

"Him being charged with dealing with those issues [of violent crime] doesn't mean that we round everybody up and throw them into jail," argued Sucher. "That isn't going to solve the problem."

He says creating more community groups is not the answer either.

"We have lots of groups especially in this neighborhood that are dealing with the same issues," Sucher said. "As I said to one of our staff: we need to be at the table. My staff said 'yeah, but they keep creating more tables'."

For Sucher, he hopes the new Chief will begin to build a legacy of community interaction that deals with the root causes of crime rather than simply tackling the symptoms.

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