Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Council debates police OT

$250K budget proposed

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati City Council will vote Wednesday on whether to spend another $250,000 on police overtime, though some question whether more money will have an effect on the recent wave of violence.

        Councilman Pat DeWine said his overtime proposal will allow the city to move “quickly and decisively to restore order.” The $250,000 will fund another 7,500 hours of police overtime, or 938 shifts, he said.

        But not everyone on City Council thinks the money would be well spent.

        “What we're asking is: What is this going to accomplish? It's a simple question: Why is it needed?” asked Councilman Paul Booth.

        Police Col. Richard Janke told council members Monday that the money would help make an “immediate impact” in reducing crime. More overtime, for example, would help officers finish their investigations before going home for the day, speed up paperwork and get criminals in jail more quickly.

        He said the overtime would likely go toward the 70-member Violent Crimes Task Force, created last week in an effort to curb the escalating violence since the April riots and protests.

        Still, he said, the police division doesn't know whether the overtime would be used to extend the task force by two months, or to step up the manpower being used day-to-day.

        Councilwoman Minette Cooper said she worries about overextending an already stressed police force, which could lead to lapses in judgment that could put officers — and citizens — in danger.

        She and Mr. Booth said the city should take “a more balanced approach.”

        “This council is going to have to spend money — which we've been unwilling to do — on some of the root causes of crime in this community,” including poverty and joblessness, Mr. Booth said.

        Councilman Jim Tarbell said the added overtime is a poor substitute for the kind of support officers really need.

        “We could walk the streets of troubled districts tomorrow, and it would mean 10 times more than any money we could spend,” he said.

        With support from council members John Cranley, Chris Monzel and Mr. DeWine, the measure passed the Law and Public Safety Committee Monday by a 3-1 vote. Mr. Tarbell voted no and Mr. Booth abstained, saying he needed more information. Ms. Cooper is not a member of the committee.

        Mayor Charlie Luken said he supports the measure, but hopes council members know they will need to spend a lot more before the year is out.

        City Council budgeted more than $1 million for police overtime this year.

        “I know what they apparently don't know upstairs (in council chambers): that the deficit for police overtime is already at $400,000,” Mr. Luken said.

        Thus, in order to pay for the additional shifts, City Council should appropriate $650,000, he said.


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