Tuesday, August 21, 2001

Trust key lesson for new police recruits

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The lessons on the first day of school Monday were serious: accountability, trust, commitment, humility.

        But these students are police recruits. And in Cincinnati these days, the topics might be more important than ever.

        The 27 recruits — 18 white, nine African-American, six female — will spend the next 23 weeks at the Cincinnati Police Academy. Their first instructor: Chief Tom Streicher, who stressed the importance of making a physical, emotional and mental commitment to the job.

        He also hit hard the importance of treating every citizen equally.

        “You keep your thoughts to yourself when you're wearing my uniform,” he told the class. “And you keep your prejudices, if you have any, to yourself while you're wearing my uniform.”

        Humility, the chief said, may be the most important officer quality.

        “Yes, you may be special because of the power and authority you have,” he said. “But you better be damn humble with it.

        “You're not bullies. You're not better than anybody else.”

        It seemed like the first day of any school: students with new uniforms and shiny shoes; backpacks stuffed with packs of pens and highlighters; and the class too nervous to laugh at the teachers' jokes.

        The recruits learned to stand when an instructor enters, to address them as sir or ma'am. A few admitted to the chief they want to be officers to fight crime, to “play cops and robbers.” He explained that will make up only about seven percent of their time on the streets, that more than 90 percent of their work will be in community service.

        On the wall of their classroom: pictures of 20 officers killed doing the job they want.

        Lt. Col. Ron Twitty, the assistant chief who oversees all patrol officers, referred to the anti-police sentiment in the city now. He told the recruits that probably 90 percent of the city supports them. As for the other 10 percent, he said — “You have to be patient enough to listen to them.”


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