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Got Reform?

By Gregory Flannery · July 6th, 2005 · All The News That Fits
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Changing the way the Cincinnati Police Department handles conflict is a slow process, but the effects are starting to show. The 10th quarterly report by the independent monitor charged with overseeing implementation of a package of police reforms, published last week, details the improvements as well as areas in which operations still need work.

The most important progress is on the two issues that underlie the push for reform in the CPD: its use of force and its handling of complaints from the public.

"The monitor has found the CPD to be in compliance with the MOA provisions relating to use of force policy, training and implementation, as well as the provisions for chemical spray and canine deployment," the quarterly report says.

The 115-page report is a detailed examination of compliance with the reform package overseen by the U.S. District Court for Southern Ohio. The package includes a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the city and the U.S. Justice Department and a collaborative agreement among the city, the Fraternal Order of Police and a class of plaintiffs who alleged racial profiling and other police abuses.

With changes in policy and procedure have come measurable changes on the street. The police are using force less often than in the past, according to the monitor.

"The use of force statistics for the first quarter of 2005 continue to reflect the substitution of the Taser for most other kinds of use of force," the report says. "The number of chemical sprays, physical force and takedowns have significantly decreased since the first quarter of 2004. In addition, while there were 137 Taser incidents in the first quarter of 2005, this is a decrease in Taser deployment since the third and fourth quarter of 2004."

Police have yet to fully comply with documentation and investigation provisions for Taser incidents, which have proven to be a controversial new tool in the arsenal of "non-lethal" weaponry at officers' disposal (see "Tasers on Trial," issue of June 1-7). The monitor's report takes note of the controversy over the stun guns but points to dialogue between police and critics as a sure sign of progress in police-community relations.

"The CPD participated in a community forum on Taser use of force," the report says. "While the forum was at times contentious, we commend the CPD's participation, as it represents an effort to reach out to the community on a significant issue of concern. We also commend the plaintiffs for setting up the Taser forum."

But perhaps the most significant change the city has seen in terms of compliance with the reform package is one of tenor. Top city officials are now telling new cops that the collaborative agreement isn't some court-ordered nuisance -- as Chief Tom Streicher and Assistant Chief Richard Janke treated it as recently as six months ago -- but rather a necessary tool for effective policing, alongside an officer's handcuffs, billy club and firearm.

"There has been some measured progress on Community Problem Oriented Policing (CPOP) issues this quarter," the report says. "The CPD training for new field training officers included a module about CPOP. Also, the city manager met with recruits who were matriculating ... about the impact of police tactics in inner-city neighborhoods. During the meeting, she emphasized the importance of the collaborative agreement and CPOP as positive ways to assist officers in respecting all people and valuing human life."

After Streicher's and Janke's juvenile behavior brought increased court supervision of the reform package late last year, City Manager Valerie Lemmie's emphasis on the value of the improvement program is a meaningful step forward.



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