CINCINNATI – The number of people arrested in Hamilton County has declined since a white Cincinnati police officer's indictment on charges of shooting an unarmed black man. That is making some officials wonder whether police are becoming hesitant to do their jobs.
Officer Stephen Roach, 27, pleaded innocent Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of negligent homicide and obstructing official business for the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, 19. Three days of civil unrest followed the shooting.
The number of arrests in the county averaged about 65 a day since a grand jury indicted Roach on Monday. That's 20 less than the figure for the previous week, according to statistics from the county's pretrial services agency.
The number of inmates in the county's jails also declined. It stood at 1,682 Friday -- nearly 100 less than it was 10 days earlier.
Lou Strigari, the county's public defender, said his lawyers' caseloads have been reduced by about one-third in the past few weeks.
Police Chief Tom Streicher said Friday that any reduction in arrest statistics was not an organized slowdown. But he said it wouldn't surprise him if some of his 1,020 officers were hesitant to arrest people.
"Everyone's pounding on them," he said. "You don't hear a lot of people saying Cincinnati police officers are doing a good job right now, which they are. It's human nature for them to react to that."
He said some officers still are working 12-hour shifts on which they are assigned to watch specifically for unrest. He also said some officers are assigned to different jobs, such as walking beats in the area where most of the unrest occurred, rather than to posts that would produce more arrests.
"The division's more in the mode of crisis management right now," Streicher said. "We're more focused on addressing any concerns that come up. We're trying to restore good relationships with people who were affected by the riots."
Keith Fangman, president of the city's Fraternal Order of Police lodge, said the recent unrest and resulting investigations are making officers more cautious about what they're doing.
"They're afraid of being fired or indicted," he said. "They're afraid of incurring financial devastation because of legal bills."