An Ohio police department took a slap at an emailer who called them "cowardly" for declining to charge black suspects with a hate crime in connection with a beating last month outside a church.
Police identified at least six participants in a fight last month recorded on video outside a church festival in Norwood, and investigators are seeking first-degree misdemeanor assault charges, reported the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The juvenile victim is white, and the accused assailants are black, but police said they found no evidence of racial motivation in the attack.
"It appears a large group is trying to egg on a fight," said Lt. Ronald Murphy, of Norwood police. "The victim doesn't appear to want to participate. After 30 seconds, someone starts punching him and basically said, 'OK, then I'll fight him.' Then, a mob mentality sets in. The fight was only 3 to 5 seconds, but it was very scary to watch."
The victim recovered from minor injuries -- but some community members claim police went too easy on the suspects because they are black.
"I am appalled that you are not charging these black kids with a hate crime for attacking this white kid," read one email, which was unsigned. "It's obvious this was racially motivated and a hate crime. Your Dept. must be afraid of blacks."
"Why not just set them free(?)," the writer added. "If I were a police officer in Norwood I'd hide my face in shame."
The police department posted the email on its Facebook page this week, along with a response.
"We are not ashamed of the job we do," Murphy said in the department's post. "We enforce the laws as they are written, without prejudice."
Murphy said the concerns are based on Ohio's widely misunderstood hate crimes law -- which can add stiffer penalties to five other charges if ethnic intimidation can be proven as a motive.
"In this case there is no evidence that the crime was committed because of race," Murphy said. "Just because the suspects were all black and the victim was white, that is not sufficient evidence to prove a 'hate crime.'"
He strongly disputed the writer's description of officers as cowards.
"They are willing to put their lives on the line at any given moment," Murphy said. "We are more than willing to show our faces in public because we are extremely proud of our work and our process."
The county prosecutor, Joe Deters, also drew criticism this summer after he declined to file hate crime charges in another videotaped beating of a white man by several black assailants at a bus stop in downtown Cincinnati.
Deters filed rioting and assault charges against the suspects, but the Hamilton County prosecutor said he could find no evidence the attack was racially motivated -- and he said he victim had an opportunity to leave the area but instead went back to argue with the group later charged in his beating.
Two police officers were injured while trying to break up the July 4 fight, and 11 suspects, including four juveniles, were charged in the case.
"I think they are a bunch of lawless thugs," Deters said. "They were doing it for fun."
Deters gained national attention later when his office indicted a University of Cincinnati police officer in the fatal shooting of Samuel DuBose.
Many of the Norwood police department's Facebook fans praised their response to the emailer, but others expressed fear that officers were too worried about being called racist to keep the public safe.
"Even though I respect the Norwood Police Department I do feel like the sheets have been pulled over their head'," one commenter said. "Open your eyes, if it mooo's it's got to be a cow."
"I wonder whose kids will be targeted next?" another wrote.
Watch this video report posted online by WLWT-TV: