Monday, November 21, 2011

Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis Loses Union Election By 10 Votes To Jeffery Follmer

Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association President Steve Loomis


From the Metro Desk of The Kathy Wray Coleman Online News Blog.Com
(www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com) (Kathy Coleman) and Cleveland Urban News.Com (www.clevelandurbannews.com)

Steve Loomis, the outspoken president of 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 ousted this weekend in a close election.

After a successful front line campaign with other union leaders against Issue 2, a state measure on the Nov. ballot that voters rejected that would have dismantled collective bargaining in Ohio for public sector unions, Loomis lost reelection Sat. to the union presidency by 10 votes to Jeffrey Follmer, a 21-year veteran on the force.

Asked if his loss is a reflection on whether the union's rank and file support or reject the Jackson administration, Loomis, who joined the force in 1992, said today that he does not know.

"I don't know," he said. "It may not be one way or another, but I like him."

Follmer, 40, who ousted Loomis' first vice president three years ago and came back and won the support last week of a majority of the 904 union members casting votes in the weekend election, said that he is a "police officer and not yet a politician."

The Second District detective who worked in the vice unit that deals with drugs, prostitution and gambling said that union members probably tilted the election in his favor after begrudgingly ratifying the union contract last year.

"Nobody likes to pay for health care when they don't get a raise," said Follmer, who is White.

He said that he looks forward to working amicably with the mayor and his top brass, an indication that his relationship with Jackson may not be as volatile as Loomis', if it becomes volatile at all, though conflict with police union leaders is traditional for the city's mayor, including Michael R. White and Jane Campbell, Jackson's predecessors.

President since 2006, Loomis often battled with Jackson, the city's third Black mayor after White and Carl B. Stokes, the first Black mayor of a major American city. And Loomis' predecessor Bob Beck often fought with White, who accused his own police of being racist in his third term as mayor, and he fought with Campbell too, who lost to Jackson in 2005, partly because of tensions with police over layoffs and working conditions.

“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.”

This past June Jackson demoted some ranking police officers coupled with layoffs of 321 city workers, including 81 police officers, 42 police cadets and 51 firefighters. Among others, he sent layoff notices to 67 police officers and a class of police cadets late in 2009, calling a few officers back, but only to lay them off and several more this year. Both times he cited a financial deficit, but this year the mayor also blamed Republican Gov. John Kasich, saying the city is facing $37.5 million cutbacks in state aid.

A Democrat and former city council president with ties to Cleveland's old Black political guard, Jackson once suspended Loomis 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.

Andrea Taylor, Jackson's press secretary, said the mayor had no comment.

And though Loomis says now that he likes Jackson, that has not always been the case.

“He [Jackson] was a B [grade] in Oct. but after the layoffs its a "D plus,” said Loomis during an interview shortly after Jackson announced police layoffs in 2009. “He knew in June [2009] when he started the police academy of the financial issues and he went ahead so that he could pose for the cameras when they graduated only to layoff these babies who have families, and some are single mothers, and many quit prior jobs.”

It's no secret that Cleveland police have perceived friction with the Black community, something typical in major metropolitan predominantly Black 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, practically all of which Loomis has denied.

Loomis took heat last year after 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 and accused police 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 that.

The serial killer, who dismembered the bodies of the women, received the death penalty, and his case is on appeal in the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals.

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.

Just last year, community activists protested police for what they said was police misconduct and brutality against then Collinwood High School students Destini and DeAsia Bronaugh, both attacked, arrested, and jailed in conjunction with a peaceful student -organized protest at the school around teacher layoffs and school closings.

DeAsia Bronaugh, who was accused of a handful of misdemeanors including resisting arrest, had her case dismissed by a juvenile court magistrate as unfounded, and Destini Bronaugh, now a Cleveland schools graduate, agreed to a diversion program with the charges of resisting arrest and obstruction of official business dismissed earlier this month by Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Lynn McLaughlin Murray.

"My innocent daughters were brutalized by police for a peaceful student protest protected under the First Amendment," said Tina Bronaugh, the mother of DeAsia and Destini Bronaugh. "But realistically speaking, an ousted police union president means nothing unless the mayor and his chief law enforcement team deal with the systemic problems in the police department that are hurting the Black community, and the absence of Blacks from his top level law enforcement leadership team in a majority Black city."

Jackson has no Blacks in the appointed at will positions of law director, safety director, chief of police, chief prosecutor and EMS commissioner.

While a host of other police mishaps have since surfaced, the most damning accusations came when Third District police officers Paul Crawford, Martin Lentz, Christopher Randolph and Kevin Smith, all White men, were charged earlier this year in federal district court in Cleveland with felonious assault and obstruction of official business after allegedly beating and brutalizing Edward Henderson, 40, on News Years day.

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 is now serving 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.

The disgraced officers have pleaded not guilty and are suspended without pay.

Asked what strategy he will use to repair the fractured relationship between police and the Black community in general, and behind the Henderson fiasco and other incidents, the union president-elect said that he understands the importance of diversity and fair play at all levels of the law enforcement continuum but that McGraft as chief of police must ultimately set the tone.

He said that the fate of the four criminally charged cops facing trial is left up to federal prosecutors and ultimately a jury, if the cases go to trial, and that they are innocent until proven guilty. He said that Cleveland police overall are committed to protecting and serving the community.

"I think that officers do a damn good job in the city based upon the violence that they face everyday,"Follmer said.

Not everybody agrees.

Speaking from an activists' conference in Atlanta Ga., Abdul Qahhar, the leader of the Cleveland Chapter of the New Black Panther Party, said that he is glad that Loomis was voted out of office and that police 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.

Reach Journalist Kathy Wray Coleman at www.kathywraycolemanonlinenewsblog.com,ktcoleman8@aol.com and phone number: 216-932-3114.