CINCINNATI, July 15 (UPI) -- The National Urban League announced Monday that it will not bring its 2003 annual convention to the Queen City after all.
On Thursday, the organization reaffirmed its original decision to stage the conference in Cincinnati, but changed its mind following the suspension of the city's highest-ranking African-American police officer.
Assistant Police Chief Ron Twitty was suspended and put on paid leave Friday while the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department investigates allegations that he filed a false car accident report on the Fourth of July.
In a report, Twitty, 51, claimed that his city-owned car was damaged in a hit-skip incident while it was parked. He joined the police department July 2, 1973, and was named assistant chief on July 5, 1998.
"The National Urban League is deeply upset by the timing of the suspension of Assistant Police Chief Ron Twitty," said Hugh B. Price, president of the National Urban League. "What's also troubling ... is the fact that this controversial disciplinary action, which city officials must have realized would rankle the community, was reveled just one day after our announcement that we were brining our annual conference to Cincinnati."
Price said if city officials had informed them of Twitty's impending suspension, "it certainly would have influenced our decision about whether or not to come in 2003."
A routine investigation revealed evidence inconsistent with the report, said Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. He declined to comment further on the case.
Rev. Damon Lynch III, a leader of the Cincinnati Black United Front, compared the treatment of Twitty to the investigation into the April 2001 shooting death of Timothy Thomas, a 19-year-old African-American killed by Stephen Roach, a white police officer. The shooting sparked several days of racial rioting.
"I think that his being stripped of police powers over a fender-bender is ridiculous in light of police officers who have taken the lives of unarmed black men, lied about it and were still able to keep their police powers under indictment," Lynch told the Cincinnati Post.
Lynch added that Twitty's suspension makes the city a "national laughing stock."
The National Urban League has yet to announce a location for next year's conference.
"When we announced last week that we were coming," Price noted, "we indicated that the sole reason for doing so was because we planned to stage a conference that would ... look at how Cincinnati was doing in the aftermath of the tragic police incidents and outbreak of civil unrest lat year."
Price said the conference was also designed to help "advance the cause of opportunity, equality, and justice for our people in Cincinnati and around the country."