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Crime and Punishment: Locally and Globally

By Kevin Osborne · September 23rd, 2009 · Porkopolis
Although he’s done his best to keep it under wraps, it appears Cincinnati Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr. had a change of heart about his No. 2 man in the department.

Either that, or the complaint filed by the police union forced him to reconsider.

Responding to a public records request by CityBeat, a police spokeswoman confirmed that Lt. Col. Richard Janke, the assistant chief with the most seniority, has been given his old job back as Investigations Bureau Commander. Janke had been relieved of his duties in April after a flare-up between him and Streicher.

“Regarding Lt. Col. Richard Janke, he has been restored to his original duties as the Investigations Bureau Commander, and assumes all his previous duties and responsibilities as such,” wrote Sgt. Danita Kilgore in an e-mail.

At Streicher’s order, Janke previously was exiled to a barren office at a remote location, where he sat eight hours a day with nothing to do and was forbidden from interacting with his colleagues, like a schoolchild who threw spit wads at the teacher — except this particular detention cost taxpayers plenty.

Janke — a 29-year department veteran — maintained his rank and salary, which was $129,388 last year and increases annually.

The chief took the action after Janke allegedly was rude to another assistant chief in a meeting. Streicher also issued a written reprimand and asked for an administrative hearing into the incident.

Streicher said the Janke incident was part of a pattern of insubordinate behavior. The police union, however, noted no such incidents have been documented and filed a grievance against Streicher on Janke’s behalf. The grievance sought Janke’s return to his former position.

“In 10 years of working as an assistant police chief under Chief Streicher, Janke has never been served with a written performance review by Chief Streicher,” the grievance stated. “Additionally, Janke’s personnel jacket shows that Janke has never been served with disciplinary action and has no negative evaluation supplement log entries.”

In past cases of police misconduct, arbitrators have ordered the department to rehire some officers that had been fired, ruling that discipline is enforced unevenly.

Standardized procedures to address this problem supposedly were crafted in the last few years but these incidents show that, if the new procedures aren’t followed, they’re of little use.


Released earlier this month, the FBI’s annual crime report for last year further underscores the fact that imposing capital punishment on criminals doesn’t act as a deterrent to homicides.

The report, Crime in the United States 2008, reveals that in 13 of the 14 states that didn’t have the death penalty last year, the murder rate was below the national rate of 5.4 homicides per 100,000 people.

In the state that was the sole exception to the trend, Michigan, the homicide rate was equal to the national rate.

The states with the highest murder rates in 2008 were in the Deep South.

Ohio’s rate also was below the national average, with 4.7 murders per 100,000.

Kentucky had 4.6 per 100,000; Indiana had 5.1 per 100,000.

Nationally, the homicide rate — as well as the number of executions and death sentences imposed — dropped slightly last year.

Overall, about 1 in every 20,000 Americans was murdered last year.

This trend indicating the death penalty isn’t a deterrent has been noted in numerous previous FBI reports.

For example, Crime in the United States 2005 showed homicide rates in states that didn’t have the death penalty averaged 4.03 homicides per 100,000 people, while states still using the death penalty averaged 5.87 homicides.

For years, most criminologists have said capital punishment doesn’t provide deterrence for homicides, as many of its supporters suggest. Still, many politicians stump for the death penalty as an easy method for appearing “tough on crime.”

The trend shouldn’t be surprising: Violence begets violence, culturally and individually.

What is shocking are FBI statistics that reveal states with the highest capital punishment rates are also the highest in the number of law enforcement personnel who are murdered.

In a report using statistics compiled from 1989-99, the FBI showed that California had the highest number of people sentenced to death and the highest number of officers killed. Texas had the second-highest death penalty rate and the second highest number of personnel killed; Florida ranked third for both indicators.

A reasonable person could easily surmise that one possible reason is when violent offenders face off with police, the offenders believe they have little to lose by killing officers because they might be executed if captured.

No matter: Hamilton County — and in particular its prosecutor, Joe Deters — is notorious for its willingness to put criminals to death.

As of 2007, Cuyahoga County, the state’s most populous and home to Cleveland, accounted for 16 percent of Death Row inmates; Franklin County, home to Columbus, accounted for 7 percent; Hamilton County, smaller than either and home to just 7 percent of the state’s population, accounted for 21 percent of the Death Row inmates.

Statistics show that 94 nations — including most democracies like Canada and those in the European Union — have abolished capital punishment, while 10 others only allow it under special circumstances.

Fifty-eight nations allow the death penalty, with most of them totalitarian in nature like China, Iran, North Korea and Saudi Arabia. The United States, Japan and Singapore are the only fully developed countries that still use the death penalty. Nice company we keep, eh?

Death penalty supporters say that any deterrent factor is irrelevant. Typically, they point out that the law allows only three purposes for a criminal sentence: punishment, repayment of loss if possible and rehabilitation if possible.

In reality, though, it’s the legal standard that’s irrelevant. Politicians like Deters seek the death penalty — in part — to mollify the public, and much of the public uses the facade of deterrence to justify its bloodlust.

Revenge and justice isn’t the same thing. Greater Cincinnati is full of people who use the Catholic prohibition against abortion to justify their stance on that issue, but conveniently ignore that the Catholic Church also opposes the death penalty in almost all cases.

As Indian political activist Mohandas Gandhi once said, “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

PORKOPOLIS TIP LINE: 513-665-4700 (ext. 147) or pork@citybeat.com



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