The Mystery of the Cincinnati Police study
Getting details about a confidential study done last year on officers’ attitudes and deployment issues within the Cincinnati Police Department — including who was given the study’s findings and when — is proving curiouser and curiouser.
City staffers finally released copies of a PowerPoint slide presentation outlining the study’s findings to the public June 21
, one day after city council members got a copy and more than six months after the study was completed in December 2005.
The release followed a May 9 public records request by CityBeat
for any documents related to the study that the city had in its possession. We were told at the time that no city staffer or elected official had anything fitting the bill.
But many of the study’s recommendations for improving the police department’s operations were included almost verbatim in Mayor Mark Mallory’s plan for fighting Cincinnati’s rising crime rate
, announced in a much-publicized press conference Mallory held Jan. 19. None of the anti-crime initiatives that Mallory proposed during his mayoral campaign the previous summer, however, was included in the plan.
According to various city staffers, several people were given verbal presentations on the study’s findings and recommendations since it was completed Dec. 12, including Interim City Manager David Rager, Police Chief Thomas Streicher Jr., police supervisors and some council members.
The Cincinnati Business Committee (CBC), which outlined the findings, didn’t leave copies of the slides with any of the attendees, at the time, council members said.
A council majority is using one of the study’s findings to push for adding 100 new police officers to street patrol in the next few years, at a cost of up to $8 million annually.
Former Mayor Charlie Luken commissioned the $100,000-plus study in June 2005, designed as an independent assessment of the department. It was paid for using private money from the CBC and other business interests, a tactic that prevented the study from being classified as a public record under Ohio's open records law until someone at City Hall took possession of a copy.
Renowned police expert John Linder did the study, but it remains unclear if council has even seen the full report. Only PowerPoint printouts and results from a police survey were publicly released, and city staffers and the CBC each continually refer questions to the other about whether more study documents exist.
“Whatever City Hall has is all I know of,” said Laura Long, the CBC’s executive director, in a recent telephone interview. “We were just a conduit to get it funded.”
Asked if a slide presentation justified the more than $100,000 expense, Long replied, “John Linder and his team did a lot of work, like the interviews and a lot of physical work. … I know John worked closely with Chief Streicher.”
In a June 21 memo to council, Rager wrote, “Having recently received the set of slides, police department staff has begun the process of reviewing the intent of many of the recommendations. … it is likely that many of the recommendations can be incorporated into current initiatives generated from other studies and agreements.”
Rager’s memo states that police will make a presentation to council “in the next few weeks”; council returns from summer break Sept. 7.
Among the study’s findings, it recommends that Cincinnati Police should use a ComStat-style system
to monitor crime trends and assess the performance of individual districts on an ongoing basis. In the past few years, when council members suggested police use ComStat, Streicher and supervisors insisted their own current system was sufficient.
In most cities using the system including New York, daily meetings are held with police captains and other supervisors to update crime hotspots, and benchmarks are developed to gauge police progress. Streicher is proposing weekly meetings with assistant chiefs, but not district commanders.
— Kevin Osborne