Cover Story: Cops Fund Drug Rehab

CPD reforms meant more money for crime prevention programs

Doug MacDonald

Yes, in Greater Cincinnati, 2006 truly was ... the Best Year Ever!

As she promised earlier this year, Police Chief Rachel Thornton returned 5 percent of the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) operating budget. The funds already have been committed to social service programs that have been proven to reduce crime — including job training, drug rehab and at-risk youth intervention — and some innovative community outreach initiatives begun two months after Thornton became chief on Jan. 30.

Presenting a symbolic check to Mayor Mark Mallory and members of City Council, Thornton thanked the politicians for their support of her reform efforts within the department that made the redistribution of funds possible.

"It gives everyone at the Cincinnati Police Department great pleasure to present you with this check for $1,836,622.80," Thornton said. "This year of change has been difficult for everyone, but knowing that we have made enough progress to buy books instead of bullets makes it all worthwhile. Our new goal for the next give-back amount in 2009 is 5 percent of our entire budget, which currently stands at $119,216,510.

"The goal of all of this money is to fight crime. By addressing the things that drive people to commit criminal acts, we're providing the ultimate protection for all of our citizens."

Representatives of various social service agencies in the audience were visibly stunned and started what turned into a five-minute standing ovation.

When she continued with her presentation, Thornton was interrupted by a heckler seated in the balcony of council chambers.

"You thorny bitch, you're going to get whacked! What do you know about bullets or being a cop? A kangaroo court handed you a job that you don't have the balls to handle!"

The man, identified as former Assistant Police Chief Richard Janke, didn't have a chance to say anything else. Members of the audience booed him, drowning out his words, until CPD officers removed him from the session.

The court ruling related to Issue 5, an initiative passed by voters in 2001, was the end of a long legal battle between the city and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) about the promotion practices within the CPD. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled late in December 2005 that the city could look outside the ranks of the CPD to fill vacant positions on the force because the voter-approved charter amendment overrides the FOP assertion that promotions are a contractual benefit.

When former Police Chief Thomas Streicher learned he wouldn't be able to control the appointment of the next chief, he joined the Ohio Highway Patrol on Jan. 2 and the city of Cincinnati began a nationwide search. City Manager Milton R. Dohoney Jr. appointed Janke as interim chief.

Janke, whose tenure with the CPD included a clash with a federal court-appointed monitor for the collaborative agreement resulting in the monitor being thrown out of the police station, told the media he fully expected to become the new chief. Two days later, Thornton was hired.

One of only eight applicants willing to apply for the position, Thornton made it clear from her first day on the job that "business as usual" was no longer an option at the CPD. She and Janke clashed immediately, and he was subsequently fired. His wrongful termination case is still working its way through the courts.

"Our reforms haven't been popular with everyone," Thornton said, continuing with her speech after the chamber settled down. "But the proof is in the perception people have of our city streets — they're safer than they've been in a long time. The numbers are getting better too — violent crime has dropped 8 percent, and 64 percent of our cases result in an arrest within 16 days of a crime being committed — but we still have a long way to go.

"You, the citizens, have made this possible through your willingness to partner with us despite your justifiable reservations. I thank you for that, for the trust you've instilled in me to bring about the kinds of reforms you've been waiting to see."

While the audience applauded, a group of African-American teenagers sitting in the front row unrolled a banner that read, "Cincy puts a Thorn in the side of bad guys!"

Thornton pointed to the banner, said, "Now that's what I'm talkin' about," and joined the applause.

The Community Problem Oriented Policing and Community Oriented Policing programs, started under the auspices of the collaborative agreement, exploded with activity this year after Thornton tripled their funding.

Sergeants Maris Herold and Philecia Barnes were promoted to oversee the expansion efforts in the respective programs. Both attended the check presentation ceremony and said they were proud that citizen involvement has increased dramatically.

Even though officer participation in outreach activities was slow to get going, Herold said the overall mood in the department was beginning to change. Barnes agreed and believed the new sense of openness in the department was showing people that their opinions would be taken seriously.

Some of the agencies that will benefit from the influx of cash are those for which CPD officers volunteer, like the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative mentoring program and the Cincinnati COOKS culinary arts training program run by the FreeStore FoodBank.

"We wanted to make sure the officers were able to identify half of the service agencies that will be supported by budget dollars formerly allocated to the department," Dohoney explained. "This was Chief Thornton's idea, and I was happy to support it because it's a great way to continue this new and growing community-police partnership."

Even though the community celebrated the expansion of the city's grant program, Thornton outlined a long "to do" list.

"We've made a lot of progress in a short period of time," she said. "But the Citizen's Complaint Authority, district sub-stations, policies and procedures, a comprehensive safety program and expanding our partnerships with other city agencies, such as the parks, will take time. Refining our community input process to look more like the one used by Cincinnati Public Schools in their successful Community Learning Center program is going to take some patience on your part. Please bear with us and work with us to make these things a reality." © Under a new female chief, Cincinnati Police were model cops in 2006.

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