CINCINNATI, OH – After months of complaints from the police union that too few officers were assigned to patrol city streets, Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell is moving 24 officers from special assignment to patrol in an effort to reduce shootings.
The officers will move to District 2 and District 4, which cover 21 neighborhoods including Avondale and Madisonville, plus part of the University of Cincinnati campus.
Fraternal Order of Police President Kathy Harrell has been calling for bolstered patrol ranks for months.
Officers begin their new assignments Sept. 13.
“Now that we are almost at the end of the 90-day Summer Initiative, we have looked at the data and emerging trends,” Blackwell wrote in a news release. “We have decided to implement Phase II of the safety plan by adding additional officers to the identified districts to increase visibility and response times.”
Christopher Smitherman, head of Council’s Law and Public Safety Committee, called the change a “baby step in the right direction.”
“We wish this had happened at the beginning of the summer because we’ve been talking about it for a long time,” Smitherman said.
And 24 officers, he said, isn’t enough.
“We need full deployment,” Smitherman said. “I would like to see it north 80 or 90. If I could wave a wand it would be 100.”
City crime data from Jan. 1 to Aug. 22 – the most recent statistics available – shows citywide serious crimes increased three percent from 2014 to 2015. Homicides in that time period are level at 47. That figure does not include deaths in police shootings.
Violent crime is up three percent from 2014 to 2015 through Aug. 22, going from 1,462 crimes to 1,511. Most troubling to city officials is number of shootings on city streets. They’ve gone from 236 in 2014 to 307 in 2015 – a 30.1 percent increase.
Blackwell told The Enquirer last week he wasn’t interested in an “overnight fix or a Band-Aid,” but instead wanted to build “our way out of crime through community engagement, specifically youth-centered programs.”
As part of that, 19 officers are assigned to work as community liaisons and quality of life officers. Five of those officers, according to the release, are among the 24 officers being reassigned.
“The units officers are coming from are very important, but uniformed patrols are critical to helping reduce violence,” Harrell said.
The department has 1,144 employees, including 1,012 sworn officers. An Enquirer review of the units done last May showed the police department had 22 specialty units with a total of 299 officers assigned to them.
Staffing in units range from one officer assigned to the Crime Analysis Problem Solving Unit to Major Offenders Unit, which has 37 officers assigned to it. Homicide has 33 officers assigned to it.
There are currently 620 officers assigned to district patrols, 45 more than in 2014, according to Blackwell’s news release.