We’ve written plenty of times in the past about Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr.’s unprofessional behavior and fiery temper. What’s surprising about the latest blowup, however, is he’s the one accusing his longtime No. 2 man — Assistant Police Chief Richard Janke — of being a hothead and insubordinate, giving him a de facto demotion as a result.
In an April 16 memo to the city manager, Streicher wrote that Janke raised his voice and criticized another assistant chief during a meeting attended by officers of various ranks.
“Lt. Col. Janke unnecessarily raised his voice during the conversation and his tone was not civil or courteous toward (his colleague),” the chief wrote. “Lt. Col. Janke’s demeanor stymied further discussion between the two assistant chiefs and was an inappropriate manner in which to address a colleague.”
As a result, Streicher made Janke relinquish his position as head of the department’s Administrative Bureau. Each of the assistant chiefs oversees one of the department’s five bureaus: administrative, patrol, resource, information management and investigations.
Because of the incident, Streicher created a sixth bureau — special projects — just for Janke, who will be responsible for assessing future technological developments aimed at maximizing efficiency. The new job will limit Janke from interacting with his peers and subordinates, the chief wrote.
Janke will maintain his salary, which was $129,388 last year and increases every year. As one City Hall insider said privately, “I really envy that kind of punishment.”
This reassignment happened at the same time city council was looking for $100,000 to keep two neighborhood recreation centers open and the department requested $400,000 for improvements to its target range.
Since the “kinda-sorta” demotion happened last week, neither the mayor nor council has discussed it publicly.
Nor has their appointed city manager, who oversees the Police Department.
But wait, there’s more. Streicher wrote, “Lt. Col. Janke has been previously counseled regarding his demeanor when interacting with his peers and specifically directed to alter this course of conduct.”
Oh, really? CityBeat twice requested last year, on June 24 and July 10, to review the personnel folders and any disciplinary actions taken against Janke and Streicher. The requests were made after department sources told us about rancor between the two men and a possible suspension for Janke.
A review of the files revealed no disciplinary action against either person, just various commendations. It’s true that disciplinary actions usually are deleted after three years but, if these problems with Janke were recent and ongoing, the records revealed nothing of it.
If this were a management squabble in a private company, it wouldn’t matter much. But this is an agency charged with protecting public safety that literally wields the power of life and death against citizens. Moreover, it’s an agency funded by taxpayer money whose past problems have prompted a costly review by the U.S. Justice Department and civil rights lawsuits.
It’s not like Mayor Mark Mallory and council members don’t know these problems have been simmering in the department.
Council generally ignored the Linder Report, which suggested numerous changes to improve efficiency and morale in the Cincinnati Police Department.
Conducted by nationally renowned police expert John Linder, the study was ordered by then-Mayor Charlie Luken in summer 2005 and completed the following December. After much badgering by CityBeat, The Enquirer and others, it finally was released publicly in June 2006.
Among its findings, the study stated the police department is “overwhelmed and defensive,” while its operating culture was described as a “systematically defensive posture hamstringing operations and affecting all basic systems.”
More importantly, it stated that rank-and-file officers felt ignored and treated unfairly by department leadership. It found that there was major mistrust of supervisors by officers, with only 28.1 percent believing that discipline within the department was fair and uniform; most police officers (64 percent) said their supervisors were more concerned with being obeyed than understood.
The study cost more than $100,000 and was paid for with private funds from business groups such as the Cincinnati Business Committee and the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber of Commerce, which allowed the document not to be considered a public record under Ohio law — and thus avoid public scrutiny — until someone at City Hall was given a copy.
To this day, almost three years later, no one at City Hall has seen anything other than a summary given in the form of a Power Point Presentation.
Maybe it’s time they give it another look.
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