Transcript of Interview with Kweisi Mfume
This partial transcript of Fox News Sunday, April 15, 2001 was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
TONY SNOW: It was mostly quiet overnight in Cincinnati, although at least 25 people were arrested for violating a city-wide curfew. In the latest development, the FBI is looking into an incident in which some police officers shot beanbags at people who attended Saturday's funeral for Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old shot and killed last weekend by police.
Joining us to discuss the situation are the president of the NAACP, Kweisi Mfume, and Keith Fangman, president of the Cincinnati branch of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Gentlemen, good morning.
Officer Fangman, I want to start by asking you about the beanbags. What's going on with that?
KEITH FANGMAN, PRESIDENT, CINCINNATI FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: Well, Tony, the beanbags are a less than lethal use of force that many departments across the country use for riot control.
Apparently there was an accusation made that someone felt that there was an inappropriate use of the beanbag shotgun. I can tell you that our officers over the four to five day riot probably fired hundreds upon hundreds of beanbag shotgun rounds.
I don't know all the facts of this accusation. As far as I'm concerned, it's not correct until an investigation is done -- that's why they call it an investigation. We'll see what the facts are.
SNOW: Well, the deputy police chief has indicated that they knew who the officers were and they've pretty much confirmed that they were firing beanbags. Why on earth would that be appropriate as people are leaving a funeral?
FANGMAN: I don't know what occurred. I wasn't at that area. I've been involved on the frontlines of this riot the first four nights. I was not there at this particular scenario, so I don't know all the facts of what the accusation is.
SNOW: All right.
Mr. Mfume, you were in Cincinnati for a few days. When you first arrived, you were giving a speech, and one of the things you said was, "Look, let them arrest us." Do you really think the police target blacks in Cincinnati?
KWEISI MFUME, NAACP PRESIDENT: Well, I know there's a very serious
pathology in Cincinnati in the police department. It didn't happen overnight. It's been going on for years. The people of Cincinnati have been crying out for years for help in this regard. What we see now are people who are concerned. Republicans, Democrats, it doesn't matter, saying that there really is a problem.
And with all due respect to Mr. Fangman, I was there. I walked out of the funeral. I was a block away from where this happened. Police open fired on people. They hit a woman and they shot two little girls with these beanbags. And these are really shotgun casings in which you have these pellets wrapped in cloth. They hurt. People have been wounded with
those things. There was absolutely no reason to do that. And many of the police officers there were absolutely distraught at some of those who decided to do that.
SNOW: But Police Chief Streicher came and talked to the crowd of about 75. How do you assess his performance?
MFUME: Well, to his credit, I think that was necessary. Otherwise, it would have been mass rioting out there because there was absolutely no reason for it. Mr. Streicher, I think, has a special obligation to get out in front of this issue as police chief and to say we're not going to tolerate this.
The real problem though is that, as I spoke with the attorney general just a few days ago, and as we continue to ask for a wide- ranging probe of this department's patterns and practices, it's really not just about doing an audit by the Justice Department. It's looking at the pattern and the practice. There is something woefully wrong with this police department.
Even police officers say that.
SNOW: OK. Officer Fangman, we're going to throw up a graphic that characterizes the incident. We pulled this out of the New York Times. And I want to get your reaction.
Deadly encounters between 1995 and 2001 -- there were 15 incidents in which black males were killed. Twelve suspects threatened deadly force. In 11 cases, officers were exonerated. There are three cases pending. And in one case, two officers had been charged.
Now you've been maintaining publicly that the police department is getting a bad rap, but there you have 15 deaths in a period of five years.
FANGMAN: Well, let me first state that I don't fault Mr. Mfume for being uninformed and not knowing his facts.
MFUME: I was there, sir. I was there. I was there and you were not. I was there when your officers opened fire after the funeral. So, I'm not ill-informed.
SNOW: Let's talk about the last five years.
FANGMAN: I didn't interrupt you, sir. I would expect the same courtesy.
MFUME: And I will reply when you finish.
FANGMAN: Will you act like a gentleman?
MFUME: I am a gentleman, and I will reply when you finish.
SNOW: Mr. Fangman, you have the floor.
FANGMAN: OK. Thank you, Tony.
Anyway, I am speaking of the 15 deaths. Mr. Mfume came to Cincinnati as an outsider and repeatedly stated that 15 African-American males had been murdered at the hands of Cincinnati police officers. Period, end of quote. No facts associated with that statement.
As a matter of fact, all of those incidents were investigated by not one, not two, not three, but seven separate, independent investigations. Those are the Police Internal Affairs unit, the Office of Municipal Investigations, a civilian investigative agency, the Cincinnati Homicide
Unit, the Hamilton County Prosecutors Office, the Cincinnati Police Civilian Review Panel, another group of civilians, the FBI and in most of the cases, the Justice Department. Seven separate layers of investigation.
Now, Mr. Mfume, let me tell you. Twelve of those 15 police intervention deaths involved suspects who were armed with deadly weapons. Of those 12 that were armed with deadly weapons, eight of them were armed with guns in which they either shot at our officers or pointed loaded guns at our officers.
One was armed with a two-by-four with a cluster of nails on the end of it, and he attempted to take off an officer's head. Another was armed with a knife. And a third one was armed with a brick. And a fourth one killed one of our officers by dragging him to death with an automobile.
Mr. Mfume, I'd like to ask you, do you actually believe that if a Cincinnati police officer or any police officer encounters a suspect with a deadly weapon who attempts to kill an officer with that deadly weapon, such as a gun or a brick or a two-by-four with nails or a car, do you actually believe that all officers should not have the right to use deadly force in
a deadly force encounter?
MFUME: Mr. Fangman, you know that's not the case.
And my name is pronounced Mfume, with all due respect.
Let me finish now -- now let me have my turn, OK?
First of all, you know, you know that good citizens in this country and good police officers all get tainted, when these sort of things happen, by a few officers who are wrong. And you know, also, that most Americans will expect police officers to defend themselves against the use of deadly force.
But what you also know, sir, is that in those investigations, 10 of those investigations came away -- there were different conclusions, and the city of Cincinnati fired 10 police officers. They were all reinstated with this twisted arbitration panel, because in Cincinnati they are considered part of the civil servant system. The mayor cannot fire them. The police
chief has not been able to fire them. The good officers who put on a badge and gun every day, who go out there and get tainted by those actions.
Now, let me ask you something. Do you believe that when an unarmed suspect is running from police, has no weapon, makes no deadly moves, should be shot down in a dark alley like a dog, like a pig, like an animal? And then you come away saying that the police officer acted right. You don't even allow for the investigation to go forward; you said the police
officer was justified.
SNOW: Mr. Fangman?
FANGMAN: OK, now, once again, sir, your facts are absolutely incorrect. And I'm not going to sit here and let you disparage the police division with your inappropriate rhetoric.
MFUME: Goodbye. Goodbye.
SNOW: OK, let's stop characterizing one another, and let's get to the facts here, OK?
FANGMAN: OK, the fact of the most recent shooting involving Timothy Thomas is just that at no time have I or anyone else from the FOP stated that the officer is innocent or guilty.
What we have said is that obviously we have a deadly force encounter, there is an investigation, it's been subpoenaed by the Hamilton County grand jury. It's been sealed by the grand jury. It's very possible next week we're going to know whether or not the officer's going to be indicted. That's what we've said, and that's a fact.
FANGMAN: Getting back -- very quickly, getting back to the other point Mr. Mfume said -- or I have difficulty pronouncing his name...
MFUME: Well, that's because you want to have difficulty.
FANGMAN: Getting back to the other point that he made, reference those police-intervention deaths and officers in arbitration not being able to be fired, his facts are wrong. Yes, there were 10 officers who did successfully appeal to arbitration. However, his statement that no officers have been fired in the past five years is wrong.
MFUME: I didn't say that. You didn't hear that. You didn't hear that out of my mouth, OK?
MFUME: What I said was that the mayor fired 10 police officers, and the mayor said to me, "What can I do? They keep reinstating these officers."
SNOW: OK. Gentlemen, gentlemen, Officer Fangman, I don't to go through Cincinnati procedures. We don't have time for that. But very quickly...
FANGMAN: I don't either, Tony, but...
SNOW: Do you feel confident that it is possible to ease racial tensions in Cincinnati, and that the police force is going to be able to do outreach that can calm frayed tempers?
FANGMAN: It is possible if people like this gentleman would not come to our town not having facts, making statements that are inaccurate, that no officers have been fired. Five officers were fired in the past four years, and all four of the five are still in prison. That negates that argument.
It is possible to improve race relations, but this gentleman and others like him need to tone down the rhetoric.
MFUME: Mr. Fangman, the issue is not me. You are there in Cincinnati. You don't even go out into the community. So it's not me, it's you. It's you attempting to call this situation something else.
MFUME: Do you believe there's a problem with your police force?
FANGMAN: No, I do go out into the community...
MFUME: Do you believe there's a problem?
FANGMAN: No, I am a beat cop, and the only neighborhoods that I've...
MFUME: Do you believe, Mr. Fangman, that there is a problem that we have to solve here?
FANGMAN: I'm answering the question.
I'm a beat cop, and the only neighborhoods I've worked in as a police officer are black neighborhoods, 98 percent black.
MFUME: Is there a problem that we have to work on here, Mr. Fangman?
FANGMAN: I think that you can always improve police-community relations, and certainly, you can improve police relations with the black community. But you don't do it with the constant criticizing.
Here's the problem...
MFUME: Mr. Fangman, we have to work together. It is not me pointing at you or you pointing at me. Because we can do this all day long.
SNOW: Gentleman, I am going to have to tie it off at that.
Officer Fangman, I want to thank you for joining us today from Cincinnati.
Kweisi Mfume, thanks for joining us here in Washington.
MFUME: Thank you.
SNOW: Thank you.
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