Shortly before noon on May 23, Bob Beck, who was attending a meeting in Columbus, received a page from his office informing him that Mike White announced he would not seek another term. When the meeting broke, Beck called his office to confirm the news.
"The men and women of the Cleveland police force need a break from Mike White," Beck says.
From all indications, White reciprocates.
"Bob Beck wants his members to be able to do anything to anybody when they want to and get away with it," White says, launching one of his verbal torpedoes. "That's his mentality. He believes that police brutality is all right, because he's defended it for 12 years."That's not a personal assessment. I'm not angry with him. A reasonable person . . . is going to deduce that he believes police ought to be able to brutalize people and get away with it. And I've said 'you're not going to do it on my watch.'"
While the hostility between the two men simmered for years, a Ku Klux Klan rally held in Cleveland in the summer of 1999 offered the public first-row seats to the feud.
Beck argued that the Klan should not be allowed to change into their robes in the garage beneath the Justice Center because it was a threat and an insult to police. White argued that it was his duty to uphold the Constitution, which meant allowing the Klan to march and making sure the group was safe.
|Pick up the August 2001 issue of Cleveland Magazine to read the account of May 23, 2001, the day Mike White called it quits.|
The dispute turned nasty when White reported allegations of racism within the police department. The FBI investigated and found no evidence of systemic racism, but Beck says the damage was done. And White made it worse.
"[The accusations] created a volatile environment," Beck says. "There was an immediate cloak of mistrust. He could have relieved the fears. He never did that. Before he leaves office he should apologize."
In White's mind, he's already done enough. "I said I was glad that the findings were what they were," he says. "Plain and simple."
The fact is, neither man has ever admitted being wrong. And both men think the other's stance is incomprehensible. "I really firmly believe he has an internal bias," Beck says. "Maybe stemming from some incident in his past."