Two far-reaching ideas by Cincinnati's fly-by-the-seats-of-their-pants City Council is being sharply criticized by people with extensive experience in policing issues.
As City Council acts surprised about a $58 million deficit that's loomed on the horizon for months, an amount that's only fluctuated slightly due to changing revenues, members last week proposed abolishing the Cincinnati Police Department's patrol bureau and contracting those services to the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.
A groundbreaking piece of legislation that would update investigative practices used by law enforcement agencies statewide has passed out of committee and is headed for a vote by the full Ohio House. State Rep. Tyrone Yates (D-Walnut Hills), chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee, announced today that Substitute Senate Bill 77 was approved. The committee voted 8-2 in favor of the bill.
The city and gay rights organizations will host an LGBT public safety forum tonight. The partnership between the city of Cincinnati, Equality Cincinnati and the Human Rights Campaign of Greater Cincinnati (HRC) is meant to encourage and improve relations between the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) and the gay community.
Lisa Davis, spokesperson for CPD, says the idea for the public forum came about when Andrew Winters, a diversity co-chair at HRC, ran into Police Chief James Craig at the Coffee Emporium coffee shop in Over-the-Rhine. Winters introduced himself to Craig, and Craig told Winters he was interested in addressing the LGBT community to open some dialogue and gather feedback.
One of the forum's purposes will be to explain CPD priorities. As an example, Davis explained why police might take an hour and a half to respond to a call at a gay club. She said that kind of delay is likely related to CPD's priority system. In the example of the gay club, perhaps someone was assaulted, but the suspect already left. If that happens, CPD would prioritize a case in which a suspect is still on the scene.
Davis hopes the explanations will ease concerns of police discrimination in the LGBT community. On the other side, she says the forum could help CPD gather feedback and learn about any overlooked problems.
CPD will also name Angela Vance as an LGBT liaison.
Davis says Vance will be open to calls from anyone in the LGBT community
to look into special events, collect information on crimes and review
possible cases of police mistreatment. For these cases, Vance will help
victims file complaints and provide guidance.
The public forum will take place at 6 p.m. tonight at the Mayerson Room in the School for Creative and Performing Arts, 108 West Central Parkway.
Outgoing Hamilton County Sheriff Simon Leis is retiring after his current term and Jim Neil will replace him on Jan. 6, 2013, but that doesn’t mean Leis is done with public life.
The lawman best known for the raid of the Contemporary Arts Center over an allegedly obscene Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit and his prosecution of pornographer Larry Flynt will begin serving as a visiting judge in 2013, according to letters first published by The Enquirer.
Before being appointed sheriff, Leis served as a Hamilton County Common Pleas judge from 1982 to 1987. Prior to that he was Hamilton County prosecutor for 12 years.
The letters dated May 1, 2012 and Oct. 22, 2012 indicate that Leis wrote Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor to let her know he was retiring and was interested in being assigned as a visiting judge.
Visiting judges are in charge of all of the cases other judges are assigned but can’t get to due to full dockets. Leis will be paid the standard visiting judge rate of $60.68 per hour.
Since Leis last served as judge 25 years ago, O’Connor is requiring him to shadow another judge for a day or so to get back up to speed. Leis has kept his law license current since becoming sheriff.
A study on Taser use in Hamilton County released Oct. 1 by a local law firm that has represented Taser victims in the past four years seeks to shed light on the problems behind Taser use in the county and nationwide.
The study, which looked at 39 law enforcement agencies around Hamilton County through public record requests, listed a few key findings:
The study also pointed out that the tension behind Taser use “does not exist only in the abstract,” referencing the more than 500 deaths involving Taser use in the United States.
Al Gerhardstein, the local attorney behind the study, hopes the findings will lead to a change in Taser policies around the county.
On Sept. 18, the Cincinnati Police Department established new guidelines for Taser use, which the department now says are adequate for dealing with the problems found in Gerhardstein’s study. The new policy disallows the use of frontal shots except in situations involving self-defense and the defense of others, reinforces the fact officers need to make sure force is necessary and specifically points out people have been injured due to Taser use in the past.
Cincinnati City Council on Friday approved a budget that relies on parking privatization as a means to plug a $34 million budget deficit while also raising property taxes in 2014.
Mayor Mark Mallory opened up the council meeting with a moment of silent prayer for the 27 students and adults killed at an elementary school in Connecticut.
“I want us all to take a moment and put into perspective what we’re doing today,” he said.
Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24 percent, from 4.6 mills (a mill is equal to one-tenth of a cent) to 5.71 mills. That means Cincinnatians would pay an additional $34 for every $100,000 of their home’s value.
The vote reverses a move made last year by conservatives on council, who reduced property taxes.
Council also passed a budget that relies on $21 million from a proposed lease of the city’s parking facilities — a deal that is expected to be voted on in March. Of the proposals submitted to the city so far, Cincinnati stands to gain $100 million to $150 million in an upfront payment and a share of the profits over the 30-year lease.
“My concern about balancing this budget with a onetime revenue source by selling our parking system seems to be ill advised,” said Independent Councilman Chris Smitherman. “We don’t know how council will vote in March … but we have tied not only the budget to this one time revenue source, but we have also tied reciprocity.”
Council nixed a plan to eliminate tax reciprocity for people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both cities.
Though the budget doesn’t mention parking privatization, council hasn’t mentioned other options to close the budget deficit.
If opponents of parking privatization want to keep facilities under city control, they would have to come up with $21 million in revenue elsewhere or make $21 million in cuts.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld suggested using casino revenue, cutting travel expenses, downsizing the ratio of managers to workers, sharing services with nearby jurisdictions and downsizing the city’s fleet as ways to cut down the budget.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, long an advocate of downsizing the police and fire departments, voted against the property tax increase in protest of what she said was bloated spending on departments that were outpacing population growth.
The budget also requires Cincinnati to accept police and fire recruit classes in 2014, regardless of whether the city gets a federal grant to fund the classes.
The budget also restores the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol, which patrols downtown on horseback. The city will use $105,000 from off-duty detail fees from businesses that hire off-duty officers. Council also voted to start charging those businesses an extra $1.64 on top of the off-duty pay.
Council also voted to shift $50,000 for repairs and upgrades to the Contemporary Arts Center to pay for maintenance and beautification at Washington Park, which is operated by 3CDC.