Cincinnati adding cops to stem this year's tide of homicides

Feb 3, 2014

In an effort to stem the homicides that have plagued the city first the first of the year, Cincinnati police will increase police overtime, hire officers away from other departments, add a recruit class and revive a gang unit, Mayor Cranley and Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell said this morning.

“We want people of this city to know that help is on the way,’’ Cranley said at a city hall press conference packed with neighborhood and community leaders, council members and police officers.

There have already been 11 homicides in the city since Jan. 1; and homicides jumped by 40 percent in 2013 from the 2012 numbers. Cranley called that “unacceptable.”

Downtown and many neighborhoods of the city are safe, Cranley said, but that is   not good enough.

“Our standard is for the victims of these homicides and their families,’’ Cranley said. “There is not one standard for downtown and another standard for the neighborhoods.”

Cranley and Blackwell, with council’s law and public safety committee chairman Christopher Smitherman at their side, outlined a far-reaching plan that they warned could not be achieved overnight:

  • Police overtime will be authorized with $600,000 through June and another $600,000 that Cranley said would be included in the city budget for the 2015 fiscal year, which begins July 1.
  • A new 60-member police recruit class, the first in six years, which would start in July and have the new officers ready to hit the streets in 2015.
  • Hiring away 15 to 20 officers from other police departments, which would cost $350,000.
  • The creation of a gang unit with two sergeants, 10 officers and additional support staff, which Blackwell said would be made possible by the hiring of officers from other departments.
  • Strengthening the existing Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence, or CIRV, which focuses on identifying gang members and trying to help them turn their lives from a path of violence.

Blackwell said his department has $1 million in savings to spend on these initiatives “through good management and attrition.’’

The rest of the cost, Cranley said, would have to come in the budget council must pass by July 1; and that, he said, could mean cuts in other city services.

“The voters said in November that public safety is their number one priority,’’ Cranley said. “Will something else in the budget have to give? Of course. But nothing is more important that public safety.”

Interim City Manager Scott Stiles presented council with the anti-homicide plan that said staffing levels for the Cincinnati Police Department are at a 17-year low, with 954 officers.

At the time of the last police recruit graduating class in 2008, the city had 1,135 sworn officers. Most of those lost since then were through attrition.

Smitherman praised Cranley and Blackwell, calling the plan “a very important moment.”

“This ends the talk of pink slips,’’ Smitherman said, referring to last year’s budget discussions of laying off police officers.

Blackwell urged the public to be patient and said the changes will not come overnight.

“We may not see the results for years to come, but we are going to build this up,’’ Blackwell said. “This is a short-term strategy to deal with the fact that we have had 11 homicides in what I am told is the coldest winter ever.”

Cranley re-inforced the point.

“You are not going to undo what has happened in the streets,’’ Cranley said. “I want people to be impatient with elected officials, impatient with me.”