On the heels of the deadliest month in more than 20 years in Chicago, Cleveland’s NAACP hosted Ohio’s top two lawmakers United States Attorney Carole S. Rendon and Attorney General Mike DeWine on Tuesday Aug. 30 at Greater Abyssinia Baptist Church to address the turbulent issue of gun violence.
In addition to DeWine and Rendon, two members of the FBI task force, the Cuyahoga County Sheriff Dept., the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Office, Cleveland Clinic Police Department, esteem Rev. Dr. E.T. Caviness, Mike Nelson, NAACP president, clergy and community stakeholders also attended the powerful forum.
Cleveland has already surpassed 2015 homicide rate of 35, with 37 murders to date. Chicago had more than double the murders in the month of August (78) than Cleveland has all year. The Windy City has been the deadliest city with 478 homicides in 2016.
However, as Nelson stated in his opening remarks; “Gun fires is a regular occurrence in this community and we have to do something about it.”
Gun violence is a subject that has become the top priority during a racially divided presidential race, and it has sparked nationwide protest from Milwaukee to Washington DC and several other major cities in between.
Guns and the violence that results from it, has created a schism between police and African Americans throughout the nation.
The raging debate has inspired movements such as Black Lives Matter and has divided the nation along racial lines, but on this day there were many ethnic groups were represented from African Americans, Jewish, Caucasians and others gathered at this historical church, and most were under the color of authority.
“We do see these problems throughout the community,” stated Rendon, who was appointed by President Obama to her post. “We are aware of these problems and we are focused on these problems. Over the last five years we have indicted over 100 gun cases which a typical average during a five-year time frame. Most of the cases that we prosecute are felons who are illegally possessing a fire arm and we also prosecute individuals for using a fire arm connected in violent crimes.”
However, Rendon explained that her office does not have prosecution authority over juveniles. “That’s one of the area’s where we are really kind of at a lost,” she added.
Rendon said that most the cases that her office observers involved children in possession of a gun. “It is virtually impossible to prosecute a child,” Rendon continued.
She says that is when she relies on the county, which she works with regularly to resolve such cases or to arrive at decisions on when and how to prosecute such a case.
“Sometimes cases are better off in the state system than in the federal system and sometimes it’s in reverse.”
Rendon is the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, the chief federal law enforcement officer for Ohio’s northern 40 counties
“I’m here to talk a little bit, I guess but mostly to listen because we have a tremendous amount of talent here in this room, with the U.S. Attorney, the prosecution attorney office, FBI and on and on and on” added DeWine.
“I think a dialogue is what we need. A lot of it is prevention. I know that this is not the topic of the day, but I think we have to do more in Ohio to reach out the young people who grow up in difficult situations and try to get them the help they need so that they can live the American dream,” DeWine explained.
He stated that he speaks to his son and daughter-in-law who teach in schools about the challenges that face many of our young people.
“This is a state where local government is basically supreme,” DeWine elaborated. “We have probably close to a 100 police departments in Ohio, we have 88 county sheriff departments. The attorney general cannot get involved in investigations unless we are asked to do it by local law enforcement. Not only are we involved in helping investigations when we are asked, we are also involved in helping in prosecutions when we are asked.”
The majority of all of the police officer training falls under the umbrella of the Attorney General Office
DeWine, a Republican, is serving his second term as Ohio Attorney General, a seat he won election to in 2010.
Rev. Caviness and his fellow ministers in attendance have experienced up close and personal the tragedy of gun violence. They have buried many of them and consoled their grief stricken families.
It is an enormous burden, one now that not only rest on the shoulders of Northeast Ohio, but African American communities throughout America and the nation as well.