Cincinnati Police held the first of a series of listening sessions Thursday to get community input on ways to reign in violence and violent crimes in the city. The session was at the New Prospect Baptist Church in Roselawn.
After a few short speeches from Chief Jeffery Blackwell and other community leaders, the crowd broke into small groups to talk about violence in the city and brainstorm ways to stop it.
Five men and a woman at one table agreed on the problems: kids have too much time on their hands; don't have marketable skills; and are often unsupervised.
Ron Reblando says he grew up in Los Angeles and was involved in gang activity when he was young. “I think when our society gets into cutting taxes, we start cutting back on all these community centers and all these activities. And it’s gotta come out somewhere, and it came out in crime.”
After about half an hour, the six people at the table reached a consensus. Marcia Futel says the session itself was a good start.
“These meetings need to be held in the different neighborhoods,” she says.
This particular group also suggested making vocational training more readily available, expanding access to organized sports, and getting more people to volunteer as mentors. Jimmy Lynn says older people need to reach out to the young.
“Nobody is even talking. That’s why they walk down the middle of the street. You think they’re ignorant. (But) they want you to pay them some attention. They’re not stupid. That’s why they wear their pants hanging down. They’re hurt,” Lynn says.
Cincinnati's chief of police plans to use ideas from the community listening sessions as the department looks for ways to stem a recent spike in violence. Blackwell and community leaders attended two sessions, and plan for a third one Friday.
“I heard a lot of concrete ideas and we collected all of the ideas. I’m going to try to infuse as much as I can into the bigger report that’s due on Monday morning.
“Ironically, I had already started working on a report for the city manager, prior to the request, so I think we’ll be in good shape,” Blackwell says.
Earlier in the week, Black sent a memo to city council calling for a report to reduce violence within 90 days. His memo set Friday as the deadline for that report.
Blackwell says his initial strategy is to increase the number of officers on the streets and on foot patrol.
“I’ve said that all along in my career. People in the community want to see policemen that they know, that they trust, and that they see walking around, so that they connect with them. They connect, they build relationships. And the other thing that happens when you put boots on the ground is that the police officers become a part of the community.”
Blackwell says he will re-assign at least 50 officers to patrol duties. He says those officers will come from administration and undercover assignments.
Blackwell says the plan isn't complete yet but it will not turn Cincinnati into a police state. “We’re not going to put in a plan that creates aggressive, over-the-top, stop and frisk policing. We are not going to allow this attitude shift, if you will, make us shift from the brand of policing that we do here in Cincinnati.”