Thursday, December 13, 2012

Special Prosecutor Called for in Deadly Police Pursuit Case

Ohio ACLU Says State's Attorney General Should Remove County Sheriff and East Cleveland Police from Investigating Nov. 29 chase that ended in 137 Bullet Fusillade

The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio called yesterday called upon Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to appoint a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into the 25 minute police chase involving 30 police vehicles that ended with 13 police officers firing 137 rounds and killing two unarmed people.

The ACLU’s letter also asked DeWine to remove the Cuyahoga County Sheriff’s Office and the East Cleveland Police Department from the investigation because their personnel were involved in the pursuit. Currently the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation [BCI] is conducting a joint investigation with the county sheriff and the East Cleveland police. The results are slated to be turned over to Timothy McGinty, the county's newly elected county prosecutor.

While not criticizing the agencies already involved in the investigation, the letter from ACLU Ohio Legal Director James Hardiman said, “putting local law enforcement in charge of investigating themselves is clearly not the best way to conduct an independent, impartial inquiry.”

This would undoubtedly be a case that could in large measure define McGinty’s tenure almost from its inception. The ACLU thinks that is too large a burden to place upon an office — McGinty’s — that works with local law enforcement everyday.

Citing as precedent Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson’s appointment of retired judge [now County Council president] C. Ellen Connally as special prosecutor to investigate five cases that resulted in fatalities, including the shooting of 15-year old Brandon McCloud, Hardiman said the appointment of a special prosecutor would give “this investigation the weight it deserves.”

The ACLU of Ohio has weighed in on the side of several local officials and organizations that have called for special scrutiny in this investigation. Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge, within whose district the chase occurred, has sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Civil Rights, asking for an independent investigation by the FBI. The mayors of Cleveland and East Cleveland, in whose respective cities the chase began and ended, have urged similar action, as have local civil rights organizations.

*A spokesman for Attorney General is expected to get back to us this afternoon with a response to our query as to when the A.G. might respond to the ACLU’s call for the appointment of a special prosecutor and the removal of the Cuyahoga County Sheriff and East Cleveland police from the investigation. We will update this post at that time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Short-Haired Meteorologist fired in Louisiana


Roiling around the net these days is the saga of Rhonda E. Lee, the gorgeous meteorologist fired by her employer after she responded to racist comments on Facebook from a viewer unable to get past the sister’s short hair style.

Lee was fired from KTBS-TV, an ABC affiliate in Shreveport, LA after she replied to a Facebook post that read in part:

 “the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq).”

Lee answered the same day, saying:

Hello Emmitt–I am the ‘black lady’ to which you are referring. I’m sorry you don’t like my ethnic hair. And no I don’t have cancer. I’m a non-smoking, 5’3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I’m in perfectly healthy physical condition.
“I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn’t grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don’t find it necessary. I’m very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn’t a reason to not achieve their goals.
“Conforming to one standard isn’t what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.
“Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching.”

Lee was first reprimanded and then fired. She has since appeared on numerous radio shows, and may appear soon on the nationally syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show." And last week CNN drove her to its Dallas studios to appear on an episode of "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien" that aired this morning.

[O’Brien, incidentally, hosted the special, "Who Is Black in America?" this past Sunday evening. The show will repeat this Saturday on CNN at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST and Sunday at 2 a.m. EST.]

Lee claims her firing was the result of racism. She says the station could cite no official policy she had violated.

But the station’s news director, Randy Bain, told Journalisms’ Richard Prince that Lee was fired for repeated violations of the station’s social media policy, and that she had been warned to mend her ways.

Yesterday Bain issued the following statement:

"Typically this station does not comment on personnel matters, but due to the publicity and interest about this issue, the station has included the following statement.
"On November 28, 2012, KTBS dismissed two employees for repeated violation of the station’s written procedure. We can confirm that Rhonda Lee was one of the employees. Another employee was a white male reporter who was an eight year veteran of the station. The policy they violated provided a specific procedure for responding to viewer comments on the official KTBS Facebook page. Included is an email that was sent to all news department employees informing them of this procedure. This procedure is based on advice from national experts and commonly used by national broadcast and cable networks and local television stations across the country.
"Unfortunately, television personalities have long been subject to harsh criticism and negative viewer comments about their appearance and performance. If harsh viewer comments are posted on the station’s official website, there is a specific procedure to follow.
"Ms. Rhonda Lee was let go for repeatedly violating that procedure and after being warned multiple times of the consequences if her behavior continued. Rhonda Lee was not dismissed for her appearance or defending her appearance. She was fired for continuing to violate company procedure."
More details on this story can be found on Journalisms here. We offer a hat tip to Cleveland’s “Web Lady”, Anita Carter, for being the first to bring this story to our attention.
*Updated at 3:55PM.