A wildcat walkout by 2,000 police that had threatened to spread into a general strike shutting down city services appeared to have ended early last night when a judge ordered 13 fired patrolmen to be temporarily rehired and the city and police union to resolve their dispute with binding arbitration. The judge also ordered a two-week cooling-off period.
"I'm prepared to kiss and make up," said Mayor Dennis J. Kucinich, who earlier in the day had called the striking police "hoodlums," saying their walkout was "tantamount to anarchy." The mayor said he would accept an arbitrator's decision.
William J. McNea, president of the striking Cleveland Police Patrolman's Association (CPPA), said the picket lines that had been honored by many of the city's 10,500 employes, would return to duty just in time for the weekend, traditionally a high-crime period in the city.
Kucinich claimed victory over the police in what he called his battle to restore civilian control over a police department that he has characterized as a renegade unit, insensitive to the people, especially minorities.
The strike began late Thursday after Kucinich fired 13 police who refused to patrol a high-crime public housing district whose 28,000 mostly black residents, according to the mayor, have historically been ignored by police.
It was the strongest challenge embattle Kucinich administration which, often in an uncompromising fashion, has pushed for radical changes in a city government that is used to the status quo.
Reports of looting, daylight robberies and vandalism yesterday had prompted Kucinich to request the services of the Ohio National Guard.
This was seen as a drastic measure for Kucinich, who pledged during his campaign last year not to seek military assistance to control disturbances - in clear reference to 1970 killing at Kent State University.
Gov. James A. Rhodes, who suffered politically from the incident in which the Ohio Guardsmen he had sent to quell antiwar demonstrations killed four demonstrators, had not responded to Kucinich's pleas by the time the settlement came.
The wildcat strike by police was the lastest in a series of crises affecting this troubled city. It appeared to have political implications as other unions and political leaders who have long battled Kucinich sided with striking police.
The most recent crisis, unlike the racial disorders that racked this city during the 1960s, appears to cross ethic and racial barriers. Blacks and whites are part of the campaign to remove Kucinich from office in an Aug. 13 recall vote.
The police strike was called late Thursday by the Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association (CPPA) after 13 patrolment were fired for refusing to begin one-man foot patrols housing district they called "a jungle."
Kucinich had said to the 28,000 residents of the public housing area that he would beef up police protection and said that police had ignored the high crime area because of what he said was an institutionalized insensitivity to blacks.
CPPA President William J. McNea said the patrol orders were defied because police need two-man teams in automobiles to ensure officers' safety.
Kucinich said the police defiance was a reaction to his attempts to throw corrupt business, labor and political interests out of city hall.
Most city unions respected police picket lines yesterday, halting garbage pickups and othr city services such as street repair. Police did not picket fire stations, and fire fighters were on duty.
There was looting in the city's West Side and police did not respond to a bank robbery. There were also unconfirmed reports of other robberies, in the downtown area.
"The situation is bad," said Safety Director James A. Barrett. "Policemen are intimidating other policemen, they are attempting to tie up other city installations and are intimidating other city employees." Kucinich described the strike as tantamount to anarchy.
Administration officials were in court yesterday seeking a permanent injunction against the strike and enforcement of a back-to-work order issued late Thursday by Common Pleas Judge Leo Spellacy. Police ignore Spellacy's order.
Relations between the city police and the Kucinich administration have never been cordial and have grown progressively worse in the past few months.
Kucinich campaigned on a pledge to reform what he called a sluggish, corrupt police department. The CPPA leadership retaliated by backing his opponent, state Rep. Edward F. Feighan.
The mayor aggravated tensions with the police by his appointment of Barrett as safety director.
Barrett, the city's second black safety director, repeatedly clashed with McNea, an ethnic white, over policy decisions. Barrett antogonized the police with a statement in late December that policement may have inadvertently killed other policemen during the 1968 Glenville riots when four police and six black nationalists were killed in a gun battle on the city's predominantly Black East side.
The bitterness between McNea and Barrett contributed to the collapse of contract talks in December when police staged a two-day walkout.
Kucinich publicly scolded the police at that time, calling them crybabies and accusing them of staging temper tantrums because they could no longer bully the elected city officials. The strike was settled but the feuding continued.