A southwest Ohio mayor stirred up controversy with a letter pledging support for police against “race baiting black leaders.”
Mayor Thomas Williams wrote the letter, signed “fraternally yours,” on Dec. 22, and the Norwood Police Department posted a copy of it Wednesday on its Facebook page.
“With recent events across the country, I feel compelled to express my thoughts in writing as police officers across the country are under attack by race baiting black leaders and cowardly elected officials,” Williams wrote.
He told officers they had always performed their duties in “exemplary fashion” and “without any outside influence.”
Norwood is an enclave of Cincinnati, whose police department entered into a “collaborative agreement” with the ACLU and the U.S. Department of Justice after rioting broke out in 2001 following a string of police shootings of black suspects.
“Let it be known that, God forbid, something controversial would happen, I WILL NOT ABANDON YOU,” Williams promised police.
Police chief William Kramer said the mayor asked him to post the letter on social media, but he denied that the expression of unwavering support indicated that he or Williams would ignore wrongdoing by officers.
"The mayor, as well as I, would never turn a blind eye to any officer who betrayed the public trust," Kramer said.
The mayor’s letter was written two days after two New York police officers were shot execution-style in apparent retaliation for several killings of unarmed black men by white police officers.
“As always, now is the time to be extra cautious while performing your duties,” Williams said. “Back each other and take nothing for granted.”
He said the “number one goal (for officers) is to go home to your family at the end of your shift.”
The mayor’s comments were strongly criticized by civil rights activists.
“It is unfortunate he has a problem with blacks and citizens of every group demanding full and fair investigations of the killings of unarmed black men,” said Bishop Bobby Hilton, a pastor and talk radio host in Cincinnati. “I strongly suggest that blacks stay out of Norwood. Do not shop there. When a mayor feels the only way he can encourage and show support for his police department is by making disparaging remarks about black leaders, it is time to stay away for your own safety."
But Williams said he was unconcerned by the criticism.
“I do what I think is right, I sleep well at night, my conscious is clear,” Williams said. “I mean nobody any harm at all. It's just when you believe in what you believe, you go for it.”
Watch this video report posted online by WXIX-TV: