Greg Harris is saying something you won't hear from many, if any, other candidates for Cincinnati City Council: The Cincinnati Police Department needs reform. Harris' critique goes beyond the changes established in the past five years by the Collaborative Agreement and the city's memorandum of agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. Those reforms largely focused on use of force, racial profiling and other issues directly related to civil rights.
What Harris has in mind is something rarely heard, namely that the leadership of the police department is ineffectual and has caused serious problems in morale. Indeed, as Harris pointed out in a statement Aug. 27, city council seems to go out of its way to avoid serious oversight of the police department.
"As seen in last fall's painful budget deliberations, council debated reducing spending on social services and closing health and recreation centers — without examining public safety spending that consumes two-thirds of our overall budget," he said.
Harris cited a 2006 report, commissioned by the Cincinnati Business Committee, by law enforcement expert John Linder, who examined the culture and effectiveness of the police department. Because the funding was private, it didn't qualify as a public document subject to Ohio's Open Records Law.
"The study has since been buried," Harris said.
A summary of the report says the police leadership's "systemically defensive posture hamstrings operations, affecting all basic systems," according to Harris.
"There are major disconnects between police officers and police leadership when it comes to priorities," he said. "For example, 93.7 percent of officers say arresting violent criminals should be a priority, but only 48.5 percent believe it's a priority of CPD leadership."
Harris also cited the report's finding of "major mistrust of police supervisors by rank and file police officers. Few officers — 28.1 percent— believe that discipline in the CPD is fair and uniform, and most police officers — 64 percent — say their supervisors are more concerned with being obeyed than understood."
"Cincinnati cops in the trenches are disempowered by their leadership," Harris said. "Nearly all police officers — 92.2 percent — believe they do not have any say in what CPD as an organization does, and nearly a third say that they would leave the department if they had the opportunity. ... The disconnection between cops in the trenches and their leadership has not been examined by city council. To the contrary, council has enabled the status quo by hiring 75 more officers and then 60 new officers over the last couple years without investigating problems with CPD leadership."
If elected to council, Harris said, he'll investigate the breakdown of trust between officers and supervisors, link police funding to performance benchmarks and pursue a performance audit of CPD that shows where resources are spent and how they can be reallocated to get more police on the streets.
"City council's priorities should not be driven by political expediency," Harris said. "A blank check from city council to the Cincinnati Police Department does not equate to effective crime fighting. Smart, innovative systemic change is needed to enhance public safety for the long term."
Immigrants Demanding Fairness
The Coalition for the Rights and Dignity of Immigrants — the acronym is CODEDI in Spanish — held a vigil Aug. 24 at the Federal Building downtown to protest the recent deportation of Elvira Arellano. Arellano, who had spent a year in sanctuary in a Chicago church and had become a symbol of the New Sanctuary Movement, was arrested and deported by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents Aug. 20. Her U.S.-born son, a citizen, was not deported and remains in the United States.
"We must stop the break-up of the families of hard-working immigrants," said Sylvia Castellanos, spokeswoman for CODEDI. "The ICE raids are terrorizing workers in the factories, their communities and their homes. We demand an end to the raids, an end to the deportations, an end to the break-up of families."
CODEDI wants to end guest worker programs, legalize workers currently here and give them a path to citizenship. Since the defeat of an immigration overhaul in Congress earlier this year, Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff has announced a tougher program that will make it harder for undocumented immigrants to get jobs and will punish employers who hire them. At the same time, ICE has been stepping up raids on workplaces and in communities around the country.
"We immigrants work hard, pay taxes, contribute to the American economy and enrich this society," Castellanos said. "ICE should stop breaking up our families."
Just days after the vigil, on Aug. 28, ICE raided a Fairfield poultry plant, detaining up to 200 suspected immigrant workers. CODEDI members rushed to the site, hoping to warn second-shift workers to stay away.
For ongoing coverage of the effort to welcome newcomers to the United States and to reform the police in Cincinnati, visit CityBeat's Porkopolis blog at blogs.citybeat.com/ Porkopolis.
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