Cincinnati City Council: Go easy on curfew violators. Police union president disagrees

 Cincinnati City Council: Go easy on curfew violators. Police union president disagrees

Cincinnati City Council Wednesday voted 7-2 for a motion urging City Solicitor Paula Boggs Muething to go easy on – and perhaps even drop charges – against people who violated the city’s curfew during protests on behalf of George Floyd, a man who died in Minneapolis police custody.

That prompted an angry response from the president of Cincinnati’s police union, who warned council was endangering the lives of police. 

Floyd’s death sparked more than a week of protests around the world and in Cincinnati. After unrest that included looting, on Friday May 29, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley implemented a curfew for several nights.   

For the motion: Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman and council members Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Jeff Pastor, Wendell Young, Greg Landsman. 

“We are here to represent the people of Cincinnati,” Kearney said. “When we see something that needs to be done, we cannot sit silent.” She added the people with curfew charges were peaceful protestors exercising their first amendment rights. 

Against it: Councilmembers Betsy Sundermann and David Mann, who are both attorneys. Kearney is also an attorney.

Sundermann is a former county prosecutor and said the city doesn’t have the authority to tell the court system what to do.

Sundermann directly asked Boggs Muething if she thought it was proper for council to weigh in, but Boggs Muething skirted the question. She said a motion is simply how council expresses an opinion.

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac has said there were 513 people charged with violating the city’s curfew, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.   

The motion, brought forward by Smitherman and Kearney, expresses the wishes of council and is not binding. So Muething does not have to adhere to it.Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.

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Peter Stackpole, a lawyer with the city solicitor’s office, said Tuesday prosecutors never intended to “throw the book” at peaceful protesters.

But Stackpole argued dropping all the charges completely would open to the city to lawsuits and set a precedent rendering future emergency curfews meaningless.

Isaac told Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee Tuesday he was against dropping charges. 

Cranley too had concerns about the motion. He praised the peaceful protests, but said local governments “have to be able to issue these kinds of orders.”

Dan Hils, the Cincinnati police union president, was angry about the vote and said it did not take safety into consideration.

“What we saw in Minnesota was terrible,” Hils said after the meeting. “They kept saying peaceful protests. Let’s not forget we had a police officer come one inch away from being assassinated.”

A Cincinnati police officer during protests on May 30 was shot in the head — but not injured because his Kevlar helmet protected him.   

“That police officer was not Derek Chauvin,” Hils said, naming the officer charged in Floyd’s death. “I’m not Derek Chauvin and neither is any of the city of Cincinnati police officers. But somebody tried to assassinate one. And it’s barely mentioned in there.

Read more at cincinnati.com…

Jim Prues