About 60 citizens attended an April 27 meeting at the Mt. Auburn Presbyterian Church to learn about Community Problem Oriented Policing (CPOP).
The program is more than a Neighborhood Watch, according to Richard Biehl, a former Cincinnati Police assistant chief who is now executive director of the Community Police Partnering Center. Neighborhood Watch organizes residents to monitor and report crime. CPOP is a way to reshape the police department.
"This requires more community engagement and different levels of involvement and expertise," Biehl said.
Using words such as "dream" and "vision," he said other cities have tried community based policing, but Cincinnati's approach is more comprehensive.
"Very few of them have committed to this as a primary philosophy," he said.
Created by the collaborative agreement on police reform — a legal settlement involving the city, the Fraternal Order of Police and the U.S. Justice Department — CPOP is an intensive look at problems that members of each community believe are most important.
But who exactly is the community? While older citizens attended the forum, almost nobody under age 30 seemed to know the meeting was taking place.
While African-American leaders such as the Rev. Donald Tye participated, more black and Latino voices will be needed to make CPOP representative of community concerns.
Two of the groups that launched the racial profiling lawsuit that eventually led to the collaborative agreement apparently weren't even invited. Harriett Kaufmann of the Women's City Club said leaders of the Black United Front weren't involved because they're no longer part of the collaborative. The American Civil Liberties Union wasn't represented because there "was no reason for them to be," Kaufmann said.
The groups that did have representatives at the forum included Citizens for Civic Renewal, Grassroots Leadership Academy, the Wise Temple Political Advocacy Committee, the Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus, Neighbor to Neighbor and the League of Women Voters, which organized the event.
The keynote speaker, Officer Sal Tufano of the Tri-State Regional Community Policing Institute, guided participants through CPOP's process of scanning, analysis, response and assessment (SARA). In a series of three exercises, participants divided into groups for each of the city's five police districts, listed their concerns and, with a mediator, discussed possible solutions. Residents of District 1, aided by Biehl, and District 3, guided by Doreen Cudnik, seemed excited by the exercise.
But residents of District 5 seemed to get bogged down in comparatively pedestrian concerns. While other districts discussed burglaries and drug abuse, Clifton participants complained they are "intimidated" by "loitering young people."
"I think we should look at the biggest problem: disaffected youth loitering and the drugs — those go together," said Tommie Thompson.
In the District 3 session, Cudnik took another approach.
"Look at your youth," she said. "A lot of them can bring a lot to the table. You don't have to agree with them. Just listen, and it might open your mind."
She also explained the value of the variable in community policing, as participants in similar programs in Chicago and Boston have noted.
"CPOP in Mount Healthy is going to be different than in Over-the-Rhine, because they have different concerns and different ways they want to deal with them," Cudnik said. "That's how it is able to work."
Tufano emphasized the role of the community in developing CPOP. He explained more police officers weren't at the meeting because they were at the Ohio Crime Prevention Association's convention.
"Hopefully some of you know who your officers are," Tufano said.
Describing Cincinnati Police officers as "a diverse group with varied backgrounds," Tufano said community policing can work in Cincinnati because it has a stronger concept of neighborhoods than other cities do.
"If you ask someone in Chicago or Boston where they are from, they say, 'Chicago' or 'Boston' or maybe 'Southside,' 'East side,' but not the neighborhood," he said.
Each group discussed three of the elements in every crime: offender, victim and location.
"If you don't analyze, you can't tailor your response to the problem," Tufano said. "This is where you answer the Ws: the who, what, why, when and where."
The purpose of the meeting was to familiarize citizens with the SARA process, but making connections with others in the community was stressed as an important next step.
Participants were encouraged to take SARA training and become ambassadors for the collaborative agreement and CPOP.
Tufano warned against unrealistic goals.
"The purpose of all this is to reduce crime, not eliminate it," he said.
Improvements will take time, and the measure of the program's success will also be slow, he said.
The success of CPOP, of course, depends on community. If only members of a particular demographic group attend meetings, the obvious risk is lack of engagement between police and large sectors of the population.
The coming months will bring more meetings and training events to be held in all five of the city's police districts.
For more information on Community Problem Oriented Policing, visit cagisperm.hamilton-co.org/cpop.