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Cincinnati F.O.P. worried about staffing levels; private police could be out

Ann Thompson

The head of Cincinnati's police union says the number of officers working in the city's police districts is bare bones.

Fraternal Order of Police president Kathy Harrell told a Cincinnati City Council committee Monday the authorized level has always been 1,135 officers.  Now, she says, it seems to have shifted to 1,000.  She says that's a problem. "If you expect us to continue to be the best police department in the country, and you create units and continually take away from the districts, it's very important to understand that we're not going to continue to remain number one in the country."

Harrell says there needs to be a new recruit class starting this fall.  Two weeks ago, the police department suggested it would be moved to February.

Harrell is also strongly opposed to a plan to hire civilian criminalists to process crime scenes.

"If you do that," Harrell says, "it will be the biggest mistake this police department (has) ever made."

Vote coming on private police

Starting next year, Cincinnati's police chief will likely no longer have the power to commission private police officers. These individuals typically provide security for businesses and organizations.

C.P.D. Lieutenant Bruce Hoffbauer says the time has come to end the practice. "They can still do security-type uniform work," he says. "They can be armed. They can make money. They can be a uniformed presence for an establishment that wants to hire some type of security. And if something truly happens that you need a police officer, we would come."

City administrators want to stop the practice of commissioning those private officers because of liability concerns. The move follows a letter from the Hamilton County Prosecutor's office saying it will no longer prosecute crimes charged by city commissioned private police officers unless a city officer is also present during the arrest.

But Cincinnati Private Police Association Chief Lester Slone says the change will put his organization out of business. "Our organization will be over; 101 years will be done," he says. "We cannot work as security guards. If we do that, we would have to go and get state licensing and it would never be called Cincinnati Private Police Association again. It would have to be some type of security guard."

Slone says his officers cannot easily transition from private police officers to security guards.

City Council could vote on the issue Wednesday.