NAACP: Qualls resolution not enough
Kimball Perry reports:
Christopher Smitherman is at it again.
The controversial head of the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP sent out a mass e-mail today – including to the Enquirer – about the city promoting Cincinnati Police Sgt. Patrick Caton.
Over the last few weeks, Caton again has become a lightning rod and a symbol of the city’s state of race relations.
Council Member Roxanne Qualls has submitted a resolution calling for the city to hold its police officers "to the highest possible standards for conduct and behavior" after Caton’s controversial promotion to sergeant this month.
Qualls resolution came after dozens went to City Hall earlier this week to complain that Caton was promoted to sergeant after Roger Owensby Jr. died in 2000 while in custody of Caton and Officer Robert "Blaine" Jorg.
Many who spoke out at this week’s council meeting wondered how an officer can be promoted after having someone die while in his custody and after being fired.
The answer is that Caton was acquitted of crimes in connection with Owensby’s death, was reinstated to his job by an arbitrator and was promoted after passing a test. After passing that test, the city – under its contract with the Fraternal Order of Police – had to promote Caton as it would anyone else who passed the test.
An outraged Smitherman spearheaded the movement to speak at city hall this week.
Today, Smitherman applauded Qualls’ resolution but said it needs more meaning.
"This resolution is not strong enough (and) we need all of you to call and lobby council and the mayor to produce a product that represents our community’s complete dissatisfaction with the promotion of Officer Caton to sergeant after his involvement with the murder of Roger Owensby Jr.," Smitherman wrote in today’s e-mail.
To hammer home his point, Smitherman included two attachments with the e-mail.
One was a poem from the dead man’s daughter to her father, the other contained only two pictures of Owensby.
"I have enclosed a picture of Roger Owensby Jr. before and after meeting Officer Caton," Smitherman noted.
One picture shows a live Owensby, the other a dead Owensby in the hospital after his arrest, his face bruised and swollen.
The pictures didn’t bother Roger Owensby Sr. He’s glad Smitherman sent them.
"I want people to see what some police – I’m not saying all police – will do in the name of the law and get away with it," Owensby Sr. said today from his North Carolina home.
Owensby saw the photos today and they brought back haunting memories.
"It hurts me (to see pictures of his dead son) but it makes me wish that people would see this and hope this doesn’t happen to another family," the father said.
"Maybe his death will bring somebody up there (in Cincinnati) enlightenment so they can get rid of bad officers."
Caton has rejected all attempts by the Enquirer to seek comment from him.