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.
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.
It was the first opportunity council members had to publicly question the budget’s architects. The proposed budget would cover the first half of 2013. The city is switching over to a fiscal year starting in July.
Many council members expressed concern over the plan to use $21 million from a proposed 30-year lease of the city’s parking meters, garages and lots to help close a $34 million budget deficit.
“It seems like … the city budget wins, but the citizens are losing,” said Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said the parking facilities net Cincinnati about $7 million a year. That would equal out to about $210 million over 30 years.
Sittenfeld called into question the wisdom of leasing the facilities for an estimated $50 million and taking half of the profit, for an earnings of about $150 million over 30 years.
Other council members expressed concern that whoever leased the parking would hike rates, something Councilman Cecil Thomas dismissed.
“The market would dictate the rates that are charged,” he said.
Dohoney said a combination of cuts, savings, revenue, projected growth and one-time funding sources helped eliminate the $34 million deficit. He said a budget containing only cuts would result in the layoff of 344 city workers.
A slide show provided by the city showed that 802 positions had been cut since 2000.
Dohoney advocated eliminating the property tax rollback promised as part of the deal to build two new sports stadiums in 1996. He said it would bring in about $9 million a year. However council has had little appetite to allow any increase in taxes as the city recovers from the Great Recession. Property taxes make up about 6 percent of the budget fund used to pay most of the city's operating expenses.
The cuts proposed in the 2013 budget include eliminating
support for public access company Media Bridges, the Downtown and
Neighborhood Gateways Program, Juvenile Firesetter Program and Arts
It would also eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department’s Mounted Patrol, which covers downtown on horseback. Dohoney said that would allow Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to redeploy those nine officers elsewhere. Dohoney said Craig had asked for a new recruit class of 50, but Dohoney requested 30. He said the additional nine from the horse patrol would bring that closer to 40.
Dohoney said he was also allowing 10 additional recruits to cover patrols of University Hospital, which is no longer going to use University of Cincinnati police starting Jan. 1.
He said the police department would also look for ways to save money by increasing the involvement of civilian members who could do things like take reports of non-injury car accidents.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan asked if the budgeteers had considered restructuring the police force to save money. She has long been a proponent of “right-sizing” the police and fire forces, saying staffing levels remain at a high while the city’s population is shrinking.
The proposed budget also includes investments in business groups that promote economic development, like the Port Authority, Greater Cincinnati Partnership, Film Commission and African American Chamber of Commerce.
Councilman Chris Seelbach praised Dohoney and his budget team, saying he saw Cincinnati as being better off than it had been six years ago. But he also said he’d like to see the administration focus on people who are barely getting by instead of businesses and developers.
“There is a focus on helping people make more money that are already making a lot of money,” Seelbach said. “Helping people that aren’t paying a lot of taxes still pay very little.”
Cincinnatians can weigh in on the budget in a public hearing Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
City Council took a contentious vote on Thursday to give the city manager a pay raise and a bonus.
Those in favor of the 10 percent raise and $35,000 bonus for Milton Dohoney say he is underpaid, has done a great job for the city and has gone five years without a merit raise. Those opposed say it’s bad timing and sends the wrong message when many city workers have also gone years without a pay increase.
Dohoney was hired in August 2006. He hasn’t received a merit raise since 2007, but has collected bonuses and cost of living adjustments over the years. He currently makes about $232,000 and the raise would bump that up to $255,000. Dohoney made $185,000 when he started the job.
Council approved the raise on a 6-2 vote, with councilmen Christopher Smitherman and Chris Seelbach voting against it.
Before the vote, Mayor Mark Mallory lauded the manager, saying he set high expectations and didn’t expect Dohoney to meet them, but the manager exceeded all of them.
“To do anything other than that (approve the raise) is a backhanded slap in the face and actually a statement that we want the manager gone,” Mallory said. “We are going to give him a raise. And from where I sit we’re not giving him a big enough raise.”
The raise came from a performance review conducted by Democratic council members Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and sole council Republican Charlie Winburn.
Winburn said the city manager’s financial management system is impeccable, Dohoney has pushed economic development, he has expanded the tax base and made sacrifices by not receiving a raise for the previous five years.
Other members of council pointed out that Dohoney isn’t the only city employee who has gone a while without a raise.
“For me, look, 4 years ago I turned down a job at Google where I’d be making a hell of a lot more money,” Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld told 700WLW radio host Scott Sloan. “This is public service. This is already the city’s highest-paid employee.”
Sittenfeld missed the council meeting Thursday afternoon because he was out of town on a personal matter, according to an aide.
Sittenfeld and others have raised questions over whether it is wise to give Dohoney a raise and bonus when the city faces an estimated $34 million budget deficit. Councilman Wendell Young said the raise would not hurt the budget.
Opponents also argued that it would look bad to give the manager a raise when other city employees are dealing with wage freezes. Police, for instance, agreed during contact negotiations this year to a two-year wage freeze. Though they received a raise in 2009.
Smitherman said city employee unions may keep that in mind during upcoming negotiations.
"Unions are going to remember this council extended a $35,000 bonus to the city manager.”
The Republican head of Hamilton County’s governing board outlined his own alternative for a 2013 budget on Monday, proposing an austere path forward after rejecting other budgets that would raise some taxes.
Board of County Commissioners President Greg Hartmann said his proposed budget would reduce the size of county government by 30 percent, compared to five years ago. He said he wants the board to approve a budget before the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It is a budget of austerity and investment in growth,” Hartmann said.
He added, “It is a structurally-balanced budget,” that doesn’t use one-time sources of cash to make up for shortfalls.
Hartmann’s proposed budget would cut the Sheriff’s Department by about $57,000 or 0.01 percent from 2012 levels; reduce the coroner’s appropriation by 3 percent or $99,000; cut economic development by 5 percent; cut 5 percent from adult criminal courts; and reduce subsidies to the Communications Center and Sheriff’s Department.
Hartmann stressed that it is important to fund public safety as fully as allowable in these tough economic times, as economic development is not possible without it.
Hartmann’s budget comes after commissioners rejected three proposals from County Administrator Christian Sigman.
Sigman proposed $18.7 million in cuts, which Hartmann’s budget maintained in addition to his own reductions.
Two of Sigman’s proposals involved increasing the sales tax to balance the budget.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Chris Monzel said he supports Hartmann’s efforts at austerity, but is working on his own budget proposal as well.
“An austerity budget is the way we’re going to go, and it’s going to be hard,” he said.
The board’s sole Democrat, Todd Portune, said he too is working on his own proposal that he had hoped to have prepared for the Nov. 5 meeting, but was still making tweaks and hoped to present it by the following week.
He hinted that the results of Election Day might impact how he crafts his budget proposal.
“Tomorrow’s results may have an impact as well on the budget that I present as it relates as well to those who are running for county seats,” Portune said. “We have in some cases two very different visions in terms of solutions.”
Both he and Hartmann are up for re-election. Portune is running against Libertarian Bob Frey. Neither candidate has a major party challenger.
Hartmann, who has actively campaigned for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, had a joke in response to Portune’s waiting for the election results.
“I thought you were predicting Romney’s win would make the economy go on the right track,” Hartmann cracked. “I was thinking that’s what you were going to go with.”
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.
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.
An internal police investigation determined that officers acted improperly in a July 10 car chase that ended up with one child seriously injured and four teenagers hurt.
The Professional Standards Section investigation, dated Sept. 4, determined that Specialist Diana Cloud violated department policy and procedure when she pursued a car full of the youths, who had allegedly stolen snacks from a Norwood United Dairy Farmers.
Two of the five girls allegedly took the snacks from the store and got into a car driven by a 16-year-old. Cloud, who investigated the alleged theft, saw the car drive near the UDF and pursued it in her cruiser. During the chase — in which Cloud reached 75 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone — the girls’ car crashed into a steel utility pole, sending one to the hospital with a fractured skull and bleeding brain.
The investigation found that Cloud’s pursuit was not in compliance with department procedure because of her failure to stop at an intersection, driving more than 20 mph over the speed limit and failure to turn on her digital voice recorder during the chase.
The report determined that the girls’ injuries were a result of the driver’s inability to control her car.
A May 2011 CityBeat look at a study of police car chases found that almost 40 percent of them result in accidents.
A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study examining deaths resulting from police pursuits found that more than 6,000 crashes and 7,500 deaths were caused by such chases. Almost 2,000 of those deaths — recorded nationally between 1982 and 2008 — were innocent bystanders.
The Cincinnati Police Department has a policy in place since the early 1990s dictating when to chase or not to chase, when to break off pursuit and how to conduct chases as safely as possible.
According to the investigation into the July 10 pursuit, Specialist Cloud had decided to break off her pursuit due to the high speed just before the crash occurred, but could not report her decision due to high radio traffic.
A new survey by the Coalition for a Drug-Free Greater
Cincinnati found that local teenage marijuana use is up slightly. Mary
Haag, president and CEO of the coalition, says it’s the organization’s
biggest concern — makes sense considering the organization is dedicated
to creating a drug-free Cincinnati, but shouldn’t someone be concerned
about this, too?
Cincinnati police will stop using a certain breathalyzer machine due to a recent court ruling that the machine must be cleared after each use. City Prosecutor Charlie Rubenstein says attorneys are consistently questioning in court the Intoxilyzer 8000’s use, causing a backload of cases.
President Obama will visit Cincinnati on Monday, though no details have been released.
In response to heated negotiations over the price of Viacom networks such as Nickelodeon, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central, DirecTV
this week told its users where to find Viacom content online for free (Viacom's website).
Viacom yesterday shut down the free streaming shows, replacing them with
a video explaining how to complain to DirecTV that SpongeBob SquarePants isn’t available and your kids are pissed.
Former FBI Director Louis Freeh said a report released today that Penn State and Joe Paterno concealed critical facts about Jerry Sandusky and showed a total disregard for the safety of his victims.
A new drug has been found to protect healthy people exposed to HIV, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the first time is considering approving a drug which could prevent individuals from acquiring the virus.
Hackers released 453,000 Yahoo! passwords, potentially helping many log into their accounts after forgetting their passwords years after switching to Gmail.
The Hubble telescope found a fifth moon orbiting Pluto, which is still not a planet anymore.
After 18 months in the courts, Democrat Tracie Hunter has won a Hamilton County Juvenile Court judgeship, but a GOP challenge to the court's acceptance of Hunter's challenge is likely to follow. Republican John Williams led hunter by 23 votes on election night 2010, but Hunter filed a lawsuit over provisional ballots cast at incorrect polling stations that weren't counted. After a recount of 286 provisional ballots, Hunter moved ahead by 74 votes. Republican board of election members reportedly plan to argue that the 286 should not have been recounted.
The Enquirer's Mark Curnutte today offered an analysis of recently released census data that shows a steady growth of the regional Hispanic population and a growth of minority population in areas outside the city that were once largely white. Cincinnati's data suggests that the city and region are slightly different than the nation's overall trend, which in 2011 for the first time found a majority of the country's under 1-year-old population minority (50.4 percent), up from 49.5 percent in 2010.
Included in The Enquirer's story, which included a profile of a Mexican-American Florence family that moved to Northern Kentucky eight years ago from Los Angeles:
A decrease of 1.3 percentage points in Hamilton County’s black population under 5 was countered by increases in the black population under 5 in each of the region’s six other core counties: Butler, Clermont and Warren in Ohio and Boone, Campbell and Kenton in Kentucky.
Overall, the regional population of Hispanic children under 5 years rose from 7,583 in 2010 to 8,032 in 2011, a proportional increase of 0.4 percentage points to 6.1 percent.
The family of a teenager fatally shot by a Cincinnati police officer on Fountain Square last summer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging police used excessive force and violated 16-year-old Davon Mullins' constitutional rights. Police say Mullins pulled a handgun, but the lawsuit says he had been disarmed before officer Oscar Cyranek shot him multiple times.
Cincinnati's Bike Month revelers and Over-the-Rhine residents received some good news this week when Reser Bicycle Outfitters announced the opening of an OTR location. The store could open by June 1 in the 1400 block of Vine Street.
Legislation regulating ownership and breeding of exotic animals has been approved by the Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, 17-4. Senate Bill 310 could get through the full House and Senate next week and be signed by Gov. John Kasich soon afterward. The ban on the acquisition, sale and breeding of certain species would take affect 90 days later.
Former Senator John Edwards will learn his fate today, as a jury was set to deliberate this morning on charges that Edwards used campaign funds to conceal an affair during his run for president.
More than 200 pages of documents, photos and audio recordings were released yesterday offering further details about what happened the night George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin.
The documents include an FBI audio analysis of the 911 call placed by a resident that captured yells and screams. Two FBI examiners said they could not determine whether it was Martin or Zimmerman yelling because of the poor quality of the recording and the "extreme emotional state" of screamer.
Cell phone maker Nokia has accused Apple of programming bias into its interactive Siri voice search by making it answer the question “What is the best smartphone ever?” by stating “"Wait... there are other phones?" The answer had apparently previously been “Nokia's Lumia 900.” Apple won't say whether or not it changed Siri's answer after finding the glitch.
A new study suggests that nighttime fasting can go a long way toward keeping you slim even if you eat bad stuff during the day.
Scientists have found a car-sized turtle shell.
The private space launch is scheduled for 4:55 a.m. Saturday, and there will be alcohol involved.
Cleveland police officers involved in the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice will not face criminal charges related to the child’s death, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office announced today.
A grand jury has been deliberating for months about the case, which has grabbed national attention as debate continues over police-involved shootings of people of color.
Rice was shot Nov. 22, 2014 while on a playground in Cleveland. A 911 caller reported that Rice was playing with a handgun, but told a dispatcher that it appeared to be fake. The dispatcher did not relay that information to officers. Surveillance footage shows the officers pulling within feet of Rice in a police cruiser. In the video, officer Timothy Loehmann exits the passenger side of the cruiser and shoots Rice within a few seconds. Loehmann and his partner, officer Frank Garmback, do not provide medical attention to Rice, instead waiting for an FBI agent to do so. Rice later died at the hospital.
Other cases of police-involved shootings, including July 19 shooting death of motorist Samuel DuBose by University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing, have moved more quickly. Tensing was indicted on murder and manslaughter charges later that summer.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty has said the long process was about doing a thorough investigation. But members of Rice’s family have said they think McGinty is making efforts to protect the officers and the Cleveland Police Department.
In a statement released following the grand jury's decision, the family accused McGinty of "abusing and manipulating the grand jury process to orchestrate a vote against indictment."
The family has held a dim view of the outcome of the case for months. The Rices cried foul, for instance, at a March court filing from the city of Cleveland which stated that Rice was responsible for his death, saying it was caused by “failure to exercise due care to avoid injury.”
The city later apologized for the wording of the legal document.
“In an attempt to protect all of our defenses, we used words and we phrased things in such a way that was very insensitive,” Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson said at a news conference. “Very insensitive to tragedy in general, the family and the victim in particular.”
McGinty commissioned three law enforcement experts to draw up reports about the incident, all of which found the shooting “reasonable,” citing Loehmann’s lack of knowledge about Rice’s intentions and the realistic-looking pellet gun he was playing with.
But there are questions about the objectivity of those investigations.
Retired FBI training specialist Kimberly A. Crawford issued one of those reports. Attorneys for Rice’s family have pointed out that Crawford’s arguments for the acceptability of other law enforcement shootings have been rejected by the Department of Justice for being too lenient to officers. Another investigator, Denver District Deputy Attorney S. Lamar Sims, has made previous statements in support of Loehmann’s actions before undertaking his study.
While the Rice family’s attorneys cite these moves by the city and prosecutor McGinty as reasons to move the grand jury deliberations outside Cuyahoga County, McGinty has said that his office and the grand jury are impartial.
Officials with the prosecutor's office cited a "perfect storm of human error" and suggested that Rice looked much older than a typical 12-year-old when explaining the grand jury's verdict. The prosecutor's office also said that tapes show Rice pointing the toy gun at passersby near the recreation center earlier in the day.
Two other experts hired by the Rice family issued reports saying Rice’s killing was not justified and that officers responsible should be prosecuted. They point out the short succession of events and the fact that Rice did not have the gun in his hand at the time of his shooting. The toy was tucked in his pants at the time.
Rice’s death occurred just two days before a grand jury in St. Louis, Mo., declined to indict a white officer who shot unarmed 19-year-old Michael Brown. Like Brown, Rice has become a touchstone for activists who protest racially charged police shootings and who call for law enforcement reforms in the United States.
According to data culled by journalists at British publication The Guardian, more than 1,000 people have been killed in officer-involved shootings in the United States this year, including 30 in Ohio, the seventh-most of any state. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to die in those incidents. While a good number of those deaths came from armed confrontations, many others involved unarmed citizens.
Rice’s shooting happened just weeks before the Department of Justice released the scathing results of an 18-month investigation into the Cleveland Police Department’s use of force. Among the cases cited in that investigation: a 2012 incident in which 13 police officers fired almost 140 rounds at two unarmed occupants of a car that had been involved in a police chase. One officer reportedly stood on the hood of the couple's car and repeatedly fired rounds through its windshield. That officer was acquitted of criminal charges in May. Both occupants of the car died.
“We have concluded that we have reasonable cause to believe that CPD engages in a pattern or practice of the use of excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution,” the report states. The report triggered an intensive consent decree between the Cleveland Police Department and the federal government, which will oversee changes in the department's use of force policies, training and other reforms.
In a letter earlier this month, Rice’s family called on the DOJ to investigate their son’s death. The DOJ said Dec. 15 that it is reviewing that request.
In Cincinnati, Black Lives Matter will rally Dec. 29 at 6 pm at Findlay Playground in Over-the-Rhine. Organizers ask attendees to bring toys to donate to local charities in honor of Rice.
CityBeat will update this story as more information becomes available.
UPDATE: Supporters of fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell took to the steps of City Hall Cincinnati City Council chambers to voice their opposition to the chief's dismissal by City Manager Harry Black. Former chief Blackwell himself appeared at Council's public input session, though he was not invited to speak before Council. Afterward, he told reporters outside the chamber that he would file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, saying he didn't learn why he was being fired from the city and that he still hasn't seen the reports released today about his performance.
Dozens crowded into Council chambers and signed up to speak in favor of the chief. At times, the public hearing got contentious, with Council members and Mayor John Cranley verbally sparring with each other.
Simpson said Blackwell was escorted from CPD HQ after firing. "If this is justified, give this man, Council, the public, the chance to read [the report against Blackwell]," Simpson said. That report had been released just hours earlier.
Councilmembers Simpson, Wendell Young, P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach, while acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Blackwell, said they took deep issue with the way in which he was dismissed. They pointed to the fact they didnt' find out the firing was happening until this morning and that the swearing-in for the interim chief, Eliot Isaac, was taking place immediately after the public hearing.
The tense atmosphere was perhaps exacerbated by rows of chairs reserved for police officers and their families, leaving community members standing toward the back of the room. At times, the mayor took a strong, almost antagonistic approach to public commenters and his critics on Council. At one point, Cranley scolded Councilwoman
Yvette Simpson for raising her voice and cut her off, saying her
allotted six minutes were up. Later in the meeting, after several warnings, Cranley had a few members of the public removed by officers for interrupting while he was speaking.
Some Councilmembers, including former Cincinnati Police officer Young, questioned the appearance the large group of CPD officers in the room presented, saying it heightened tensions. City Manager Harry Black then dismissed many of the officers until the public hearing concluded.
Cranley and Black admonished Councilmembers and the public not to rush to judgment, and to read the report detailing the allegations against Blackwell. Cranley called the evidence against Blackwell "overwhelming" and said that anyone reading the report would conclude that Black "made the right choice."
City Manager Harry Black announced this morning that he has fired Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell due to "lack of sufficient and proper communication, particularly within the
command staff, coupled with a consistent and pervasive disregard for the
chain of command," according to a 35-page memo the city released today. That memo contained testimony from CPD officials alleging poor leadership from the chief.
The city also released a department climate assessment that says a lack of communication, leadership and technology has contributed to low morale and has put the department at risk of high rates of officer attrition.
Black announced that Assistant Police Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of CPD, will be the interim police chief.
Among the allegations against Blackwell in the report, which includes statements from CPD Specialist Scotty Johnson and Public Information Officer Tiffany Hardey, are charges that Blackwell has been verbally abusive and retaliatory toward officers, that he has been unavailable during critical moments in recent months, that he played favorites in assigning overtime, that he spent too much time self-promoting, including taking selfies at the funeral of murdered CPD officer Sonny Kim and that he used his perch as chief to get free tickets to sporting events.
Blackwell has been embattled for months. Early this summer, severance documents between Blackwell and the city came to light, though these were never signed by the chief and he asserted he was staying on the force. More recently, Cincinnati's Fraternal Order of Police announced a Sept. 14 meeting, and union leadership said officers would take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell.
Blackwell’s critics say the Cincinnati Police Department's critical staffing, communication and morale issues have festered this
summer as gun crimes rose, the department dealt with the shooting death of
officer Sonny Kim and other difficult circumstances challenged the department.
But the chief’s supporters, including some council members and other public figures, say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature. They point to the fact that when he was campaigning for mayor, Cranley asked then-City Manager Milton Dohoney not to hire a chief until the election was finished so the newly elected mayor could have a say in the hiring. Dohoney hired Blackwell despite this request. Blackwell’s supporters say Cranley would like to oust Blackwell and install his own choice for police chief.
Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters yesterday announced that University of Cincinnati police officer Ray Tensing has been
indicted by a grand jury on murder charges for the shooting death of 43-year-old
Cincinnati resident Samuel Dubose. Deters also released body camera footage of the shooting at a news conference yesterday.
Hundreds took to the steps of the Hamilton County Courthouse, and later to the streets of downtown, following the announcement. Tensing was arraigned on those charges this morning. He plead not guilty and is being held on a $1 million bond.
Nygel Miller says he was a friend of Samuel Dubose's from childhood. "We want justice," Miller says. "We want the release of those tapes. We want the officer charged. We want him removed from his duties. We want the officer to be talked about the way our young black men have been spoken about by this prosecutor."
Mayor John Cranley, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and other city officials yesterday announced a police plan to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and reach out to youth. Blackwell acknowledged more cops alone won’t solve or prevent the city’s heightened levels of violent crimes and homicides, but he said changing the level of enforcement through new tactics, such as hot spot policing, could help. A lot of research supports hot spot policing, although the practice can sometimes backfire, as “stop and frisk” did in New York City, if it targets minorities.
Bill Nye the Science Guy today will debate Creation Museum owner Ken Ham. The debate will focus on evolution, which is overwhelmingly supported by science, and biblical creationism, which has no scientific evidence to support it. The debate will be streamed live here.
Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn is considering a run for the Ohio Senate. Winburn would run in the heavily Democratic 9th Senate District. So far, there are two likely Democratic opponents: former Councilman Cecil Thomas and State Rep. Dale Mallory. The seat is open because State Sen. Eric Kearney, the Democratic incumbent, is term limited.
Republican Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel might get two Democratic opponents in this year’s election: Sean Feeney, a North College Hill resident who already filed, and potentially Paul Komerak, a member of the Hamilton County Democratic Party’s executive committee. If both Komerak and Feeney run, they could face off in a Democratic primary.
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved tax credits for Tom + Chee to entice the grilled cheese and tomato soup chain to keep its headquarters downtown as it expands nationally. Councilman Kevin Flynn questioned whether tax breaks should be given so leniently, but other council members argued the tax deals keep jobs in the city.
City Council might structurally balance the budget and fix the underfunded pension system to stabilize Cincinnati’s bond rating.
The Ohio Senate is still mulling over ways to repeal Ohio’s renewable energy and efficiency standards. CityBeat covered the standards in greater detail here and here.
Democratic attorney general candidate David Pepper wants to reform how the state picks outside law firms to avoid appearances of pay-to-play that have mired Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine. A previous Dayton Daily News investigation found firms lobbying for state assignments contributed $1.3 million to DeWine’s campaign.
Attorneys for the Ohio inmate next scheduled for execution asked for a stay to avoid a “lingering death” similar to the 26-minute, seemingly painful execution of Dennis McGuire. CityBeat covered McGuire’s execution and the concerns it raised in further detail here.
Enrollment in Ohio’s public colleges and universities dropped by 2 percent in the latest fall semester.
Ohio gas prices ticked up at the start of the week, but the lowest average was in Cincinnati.
Scientists claim space-grown vegetables are safe to eat.
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City officials on Monday announced a new public safety initiative that promises to put more cops on the streets, focus on “hot spots” of crime, restart the gang unit and do more to reach out to youth.
The comprehensive plan comes after a rough start to the year, with homicides and violent crime ticking up even as the weather remains cold.
Among other initiatives, the plan will add more cops on the ground through new hires, more overtime and a new recruit class — the first since 2008.
“The message to people is that help is on the way,” Mayor John Cranley said.
The plan will come at higher costs to an already-strained operating budget. Cranley said the Cincinnati Police Department set aside nearly $1 million for the proposal through June, while the remaining $5.6 million should be funded in the city’s $370-plus million operating budget.
When asked whether initiatives like the one announced Monday will hurt the budget, Cranley reiterated his long-standing position that public safety takes top priority in the city budget.
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said the refocus intends to prevent, not just solve, crimes. He acknowledged more cops alone won’t end the city’s crime problem, but he argued increasing the level of evidence-based enforcement — through new tactics supported by more cops on the streets — could make a difference.
Cranley and Blackwell cautioned the results might not be immediate, but they said it’s an important step to stop levels of crime local residents are clearly unhappy with.
Hot spot policing carries a high level of empirical support. In two different studies from Rutgers and the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands, researchers argued the strategy doesn’t always displace crime; it can also prevent crime by deterring and discouraging future incidents in hot spots and surrounding areas — what researchers call a “diffusion” of benefits.
But the concept also needs to be executed carefully. In New York City, “stop and frisk” became a fairly unpopular type of hot spot policing after some reports found the strategy targeted racial makeups in neighborhoods more than levels of crime.
Of course, better policing isn’t the only way to combat crime. As two examples, lead abatement and ending the war on drugs could prevent violence by reducing aggression and eliminating a huge source of income for drug cartels.
This story was updated to include more information from the city manager’s memo.
Mayor John Cranley, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell and several other local leaders expect to announce a $1 million plan to add more cops, including a new recruit class, to help fight a local rise in homicides and violent crime. Besides the additional officers, the plan will also restart a unit focused on gangs and put more emphasis on "hot spots" of potential crime. The announcement follows a rough start to the year that's already experienced higher-than-normal levels of violence. CityBeat will cover the announcement in further detail as the news breaks.
A bill in the Ohio legislature could enable more clean needle exchanges. The bill wouldn't supply state or federal funding, but it would let any local health authority establish a syringe-exchange program without declaring a health emergency. Although some conservatives take issue with providing needles to drug users, officials say the program in Portsmouth, Ohio, cut countywide hepatitis C rates, nearly eliminated the number of needles found in parks and on sidewalks, and provided addicts a legally safe resource for help. CityBeat previously covered attempts to establish a local needle-exchange program in further detail here.
Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune on Friday officially dropped his long-shot bid for governor. Although Portune received a lot of attention from local media, he never mounted a credible campaign and drew harsh criticisms from fellow Democrats, who accused Portune of complicating Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald's campaign against Republican Gov. John Kasich.
While some in the media focus on the horse race and fundraising goals, political scientists say partisan ties, national politics and the state of the economy play a much bigger role in deciding elections.
Southwestern Ohio should expect light snow today and a winter storm tomorrow.
Young women who take the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have sex or take part in unsafe sexual practices, a study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center found.
Denver Broncos fans yesterday got a taste of what it's like to support the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
Philip Seymour Hoffman died of an apparent drug overdose.
January birthed a few cute zoo animals.
If it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments, Cincinnati might not face an operating budget gap in 2015. The city has lost roughly $26 million in annual state aid since 2010, according to city officials, while the budget gap for 2015 is estimated at nearly $21 million. The reduction in state aid helps explain why Cincinnati continues dealing with budget gaps after years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. Still, some council members argue Democratic council members should stop blaming Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for the city's problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.
Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department yesterday explained the local increase in homicides to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. Police officials said gang-related activity, particularly activity related to the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade, is to blame for the spike in crime in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati. In particular, it appears disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories led to turf wars and other violent acts. Police also cautioned, "Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature."
The Democratic primary election for governor heated up yesterday after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's commitment to blacks "appalling" in an email obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prominent Democrats at the state and local level responded to the criticisms as more evidence Portune shouldn't continue to run and threaten Democrats' chances of a clean gubernatorial campaign. Portune announced his intention to run last week, despite calls from top Democrats to stay out of the race.
The weather also slowed down streetcar construction.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld: "Five Lessons From Cincinnati's Little Engine That Could."
The Cincinnati Board of Education chose its veteran members to head the school board in 2014.
Cincinnati-based Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Humana and U.S. Bank gained perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign's index for gay-friendly companies.
About 34 percent of Ohio third-graders could be held back if they do not improve their scores on the state's reading assessments. The chairs of the Ohio House and Senate's education committees argue the aggressive approach is necessary to improve the state's education outcomes. But the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has "deleterious long-term effects" both academically and socially.
Kentucky is spending $32 million for substance abuse treatment to tackle the heroin epidemic.
Ohio Democrats named a new executive director for the state party: Liz Walters. The Silver Lake, Ohio, native began her political career with the Girl Scouts when she worked for the organization as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.
Typically allies on other issues, liberals and the scientific community disagree on genetically modified crops.
A pill normally taken as a mood stabilizer could help people acquire perfect pitch.