Thursday, September 02, 2010

Cincinnati Police Allowed to Run Over People

Another Reason to Boycott Cincinnati

There are so many reasons to stay away from the city of Cincinnati, and today the Cincinnati prosecutor's office announced one more reason. Prosecutor Joe Deters held a press conference to inform the community that Hamilton County would not pursue felony charges against police officer Marty Polk for running over and killing Joann Burton as she slept under a blanket in Washington Park in the Over the Rhine neighborhood. In Ohio, the County acts on behalf of the state to pursue felony (serious) charges, and the cities oversee misdemeanor cases. This is an unbelievable decision, and hard to make any other conclusion except that if this woman had not been homeless or had not been an African American or not been either this police officer would be waiting for a manslaughter trial to start.

Are homeless people so disposable in Cincinnati that police are free to kill them without criminal charges? Or is racism still alive and well within the Cincinnati judicial system? The prosecutor claimed the definition of a vehicular felony involved "heedless indifference to consequences and perversely disregarding known risks." This seems to be exactly what happened here. The police officer went up over the curb, and then drove off the path and then decided to drive over the blankets in the park in the daytime. How is that not a "disregard of known risks?" How is running over a person not considered ignoring the consequences of driving up on the grass? I just cannot imagine if a white baby were killed sleeping under a blanket by a police car while the parents were playing volleyball in the park, the the officer would have been immediately fired and charged with vehicular homicide. Besides not being homeless, what could Ms. Burton done to prevent her own death if this were an accident. She was asleep, and not bothering anyone. Should she have set up cones or flashing lights? Is the city going to provide traffic cones to indicate that a homeless person is sleeping to avoid these "accidents" in the future?

I don't understand how Cincinnati is so hostile to low income, homeless, and African American people. Elected officials have tried to close down the Drop In Center shelter for over 20 years. They have undercharged vicious crimes against homeless people on a regular basis according to the National Coalition for the Homeless hate crimes report. Officials never really healed the wounds from the 2001 riot in the Over the Rhine neighborhood. City Council has repeatedly passed laws directed at homeless people. The Cincinnati police have long been under the scrutiny of the Justice Department and community groups because of alleged racist behavior and an unusual number of deaths with young African Americans taken into custody. This decision this week to let Officer Polk off without criminal charges is just another in the long line of poor leadership within the City of Cincinnati, and another reason to steer clear of the City.

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