Thursday, January 04, 2001

PULFER: Half-baked idea


Force cops to work late shifts?

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        It's not a hot potato. Not really. Not yet. It's just a half-baked idea. But things could heat up.

        The idea comes from City Councilman Paul Booth, who has announced a plan to involve himself in the scheduling of police officers.

        “There is a serious disparity throughout the Cincinnati Police Division with regard to the number of experienced officers that work on the first shift versus the number of experienced officers that work on second shift,” Mr. Booth said in a motion he'll introduce to City Council this month.

        The heat came swiftly and predictably from Keith Fangman, Fraternal Order of Police union president.

        “I don't care how many ordinances or motions Mr. Booth wants to propose,” he said. “He's not changing our contract. He doesn't have that kind of authority.”

        Mr. Booth is proposing that some of the most experienced police officers should be forced to work during the worst hours. Calling the second shift the city's “busiest and most crime-ridden,” the councilman is suggesting that experienced officers be rotated for no less than one year. Whether they like it or not.

        And they don't.

A family matter
        The most senior officers are choosing the day shift. Their second choice is nights. Safety Director Kent Ryan reports that patrol officers average 4.4 years of service on the second shift, the one from 3-11 p.m. Day-shift officers average 12.2 years and night shift 7.6 years.

        It's a family matter, according to Mr. Fangman. “This isn't your father's police division anymore,” he says. “A lot of our officers are single mothers. Or officers married to working spouses. They have day care considerations. And they simply want to spend time with their kids.”

        Mr. Booth says they are needed at work.

Incentive plan
        So, why don't we come up with something that will give them a good reason to choose a bad shift? An incentive, I believe they call it. Maybe even something that could help solve some other problems we have here.

        Cincinnati is losing people — more than 33,000 since the 1990 census. Only six other major cities have a worse record. And the rate of home-ownership here is low — 38 percent compared with 65 percent nationally. A home ownership program has been proposed for Cincinnati Public Schools employees. The University of Cincinnati's mortgage assistance program helps first-time home owners.

        Why not cops?

        Just over half Cincinnati's police officers — 531 out of 1,000 — live in the city limits. But maybe some of the kids are getting ready to go off to college. Maybe some of the most senior police officers no longer need a three-bedroom house in Delhi Township. Maybe they'd be interested in downsizing, moving back to the city. Maybe the wife would like to walk to work at the bank. Maybe the husband would choose the second shift.

        Maybe.

        So, instead of cramming something down their throats, maybe we can entice them to spend even more time with us. Right in our neighborhoods. They might begin to suspect that the public respects them even when they are not wearing badges with black tape across them.

        Paul Booth says he wants Cincinnati's finest to be on duty when they're most needed. I'm greedier than that. I want them around all the time.

       E-mail Laura at lpulfer@enquirer.com or call 768-8393.

       



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