Changes Promised as Cincinnati Curfew Ends

ByABC News

April 16, 2001 -- Cincinnati officials hope the city will remain calm and race relations will improve after the mayor lifted a four-day curfew today and announced the formation of a race relations committee.

"We have been a community in crisis," Mayor Charles Luken said at a news conference today. "Now that the disturbances have subsided, they must never occur again. We have an opportunity for a new Cincinnati."

After a relatively calm Easter weekend, Luken lifted a curfew he imposed after three nights of civil unrest last week. Violence erupted in the city after Timothy Thomas, an unarmed 19-year-old black man, was shot and killed by a white police officer on April 7.

The rioting in predominantly black neighborhoods ended, for the most part, when the mayor instituted the curfew last Thursday. However, Luken kept a state of emergency in effect as a precaution.

Thomas was the 15th black male killed by Cincinnati police since 1995, and the fourth since November.

Today, after local black leaders and the NAACP urged city officials not to ignore the racial tension in Cincinnati, especially between blacks and the police department, Luken called for changes to eliminate excessive police violence. He also said he would create a commission to find ways to include more minorities in the city's economic growth.

"This city is committed to eliminating all inappropriate police violence," he said. "We will not tolerate injustice in any form. We need immediate improvement and strong city and police leadership accountability for these results."

Reviewing Police Practices

Last week, the Justice Department said it will review the practices, training and methods of the Cincinnati Police Department.

Luken also asked the City Council to allow city officials to participate in a mediation session proposed by those who sued Cincinnati and accused the police department of 30 years of racial profiling last month. The council will meet Tuesday to address the concerns.

Thomas was killed by Officer Stephen Roach as Roach tried to arrest him on 14 outstanding warrants for mostly traffic violations. Roach has been on paid administrative leave since the shooting and has not commented. His defenders say he thought his life was in danger because he saw Thomas reach for a weapon during their encounter in a dark alley. No gun was recovered at the scene.

The FBI is investigating whether Roach violated Thomas' civil rights during their encounter. A Hamilton County grand jury could begin hearing evidence in the case this week.

ABCNEWS' Aaron Brown and Mike Schell contributed to this report.