By Kathy Wray Coleman, editor-in-chief, Cleveland Urban News.Com, and the Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.com, Ohio's most read digital Black newspaper and newspaper blog. Tel: (216) 659-0473. Kathy Wray Coleman is a community activist, educator and 21-year investigative journalist who trained at the Call and Post Newspaper in Cleveland, Ohio for 17 years.
(www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www
CLEVELAND, Ohio-Steve Loomis (pictured), the outspoken former president of the Cleveland's Police Patrolmen's Association who regularly quarreled with Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson and at one time gave the mayor a 'D plus' for leadership skills, was elected last month to again lead the rank-and-file Cleveland police union after he ousted Jeff Follmer, who beat him in an election two years ago by only 10 votes.
Loomis won this year's election by 300 votes. He will officially assume the role of the union president for two years beginning in January. His victory comes on the heels of a scathing U.S. Department of Justice report announced two weeks ago on gross impropriety by Cleveland police, from illegal deadly force, to vicious pistil whippings of adults and children, and "cruel and unusual punishment against the mentally ill."
Asked two years ago if his then loss to Follmer was a reflection on whether the union's rank and file support or reject the Jackson administration, Loomis, who joined the force in 1992, told Cleveland Urban News.Com at the time that he could not guess why he lost.
"I don't know," said Loomis. "It may not be one way or another, but I like him [Mayor Jackson]."
Follmer, 42, said after winning election two years ago that he is a "police officer and not yet a politician."
A second district detective who worked in the vice unit that deals with drugs, prostitution and gambling, Follmer told Cleveland Urban News.Com that police are not getting a fair shake on employee benefits.
"Nobody likes to pay for health care when they don't get a raise," said Follmer, who like Loomis is White in a largely White Cleveland Police Department that serves a majority Black major American city.
Follmer may have been a little too outspoken. He publicly called the shooting death in 2012 of unarmed Blacks Malissa Williams and Tim Russell, both gunned down with police slinging 137 bullets following a car chase that began in downtown Cleveland and ended in neighboring East Cleveland, "a good shooting." And in the midst of the Williams-Russell fiasco, he led the union in unsuccessfully calling for the resignation of then police chief Michael McGraft, now the safety director. And just this week he publicly criticized Cleveland Browns wide receiver Andrew Hawkins for wearing a shirt at the Browns game on Sunday against the Bengals that read "Justice for Tamir Rice and Eric Crawford."
Twelve year-old Rice was slain by Cleveland police on Nov 22 at a public park on the city's largely White west side for sporting a top pellet gun, and Crawford was killed by police at a Walmart in Beavercreek, Ohio for picking up an air rifle off of a store shelf.
President since 2006 and until two years ago when ousted by Follmer, Loomis often battled with Jackson, the city's third Black mayor after Michael R. White and the late Carl Stokes, the first Black mayor of a major American city. And he backed police in deadly force shootings , and with regards to practically everything else they did, good or bad.
Loomis' predecessor before he was first elected, Bob Beck, often fought with White, who accused his own police of being racist in his third term as mayor. And Beck fought with former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell, who succeeded White and lost to Jackson in 2005 after one term in office.
“He [Jackson] has more administrators and cabinet members than former mayors Campbell and White and he has failed to prioritize services by targeting the safety forces,” Loomis said during a 2009 interview. “He [Jackson] bragged during his campaign about a balanced budget and no layoffs for 2010. He was being disingenuous.”
A Democrat and former city council president with ties to Cleveland's old Black political guard Jackson once had Loomis suspended for two weeks because of an aggressive altercation with Black on Black Crime founder and community activist Art McKoy at an anti-police brutality rally.
"I always thought that Steve Loomis was too rough around the edges," said McKoy.
It's no secret that Cleveland police have perceived friction with the Black community, something typical in largely Black urban cities like Cleveland, a city with a population of some 400,000 people. But the relationship with Cleveland's Black community and the city's police has been even more strained in recent years with a string of accusations of police misconduct.
In addition to recent arbitrary police killings from Rice to Tanisha Anderson, who was killed by police three weeks ago while in custody, Loomis took heat in 2011 after then Cleveland NAACP President George Forbes, with a dozen Black leaders in support, including state legislators and Cleveland City Councilmen Zack Reed and Jeff Johnson, held a press conference against police. At that press conference, Forbes accused police that were moonlighting in Cleveland's Warehouse District of roughing up Blacks that patronize the restaurants and bars there.
Loomis said that Forbes and his comrades on the issue lacked validity and were really lobbying for Jackson to win public support due to contentious union contract negotiations with the mayor and the city's union negotiating team.
Police were also called to task for releasing since convicted serial killer Anthony Sowell from police custody in 2008 in spite of a rape complaint where six of the 11 murdered Black women that were killed at Sowell's home on Imperial Ave. on Cleveland's majority Black east side went missing after 2008, public records show.
The serial killer, who dismembered the bodies of some of the women he killed, received the death penalty from Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose. His 2011 murder and other convictions, and his death sentence, are currently on appeal before the Ohio Supreme Court.
Some family members of the victims had complained that their missing persons reports were ignored because the women were Black, poor, and at least some had substance abuse problems.
And in 2009 fifth district police officers were accused of calling Rebecca Whitby, then a 24-year-old college student, a nigger, and of beating her unnecessarily, an elderly White neighbor in the Collinwood neighborhood said.
In 2010, community activists protested against police for what they said was police misconduct and brutality against then Collinwood High School students and sisters Destini and DeAsia Bronaugh. They were both attacked, arrested, and jailed in conjunction with a peaceful student -organized protest at the school around teacher layoffs and school closings.
Also, damning accusations of police misconduct came when third district police officers Paul Crawford, Martin Lentz, Christopher Randolph and Kevin Smith, all White men, were charged in federal district court in Cleveland with felonious assault and obstruction of official business after allegedly beating and brutalizing Edward Henderson on News Years day in 2011
Caught on video from an unassuming helicopter, the alleged beating and unnecessary force against Henderson, who is Black, shined a tainted picture of Cleveland police, with some community leaders and activists calling the leadership of Cleveland Police Chief Michael McGraph into question.
Henderson, who served a three year prison sentence for felony fleeing and eluding, took police on a high speed chase but was allegedly beaten by the four policemen even after he got out of his car and on the ground and put his arms behind his back. He subsequently won damages of $600,000 relative to a Civil Rights lawsuit filed against police and the city.
Community activists say that police get away with murder because of their status as cops, and that it is detrimental to the Black community, and others.
Abdul Qahhar, the leader of the Cleveland Chapter of the New Black Panther Party, said that police in Cleveland, and nationwide, have collectively disenfranchised Black and other minority communities.
"They have unchecked power and that is why Black men and other people are being murdered by police in Cleveland and throughout this country," said Qahhar. (www.clevelandurbannews.com) / (www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com)