Monday, October 15, 2001

Public safety biggest issue in mayor's race

Candidates' views differ slightly

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After several uses of deadly force by police, the April riots and a summer violent crime spree with more than 100 shootings, it's no wonder that public safety is at the forefront of the 2001 campaign for Cincinnati's mayor.

        Although the nuances of their platforms may be different, the candidates say essentially the same thing: Cincinnati needs more police officers, and the Violent Crimes Task Force should be made permanent.

        The task force, created in July, took about 70 officers from throughout the city and assigned them full time to tracking down the city's most-wanted violent criminals, and shutting down drug trafficking and other crime in Over-the-Rhine.

        That's a problem to some residents like Cindy Shafer of Roselawn.

        “The undercover officers who were working in our area are now assigned to the Violent Crimes Task Force, so we're not getting the attention that we need,” she said.

        And with the area's community relations officer now spending much of his time serving subpoe nas, many neighborhood crime problems aren't being solved, she said.

        Democrat Charlie Luken has already voted for a plan to add 75 officers to the force, replacing the neighborhood beat cops now on the task force.

        Charterite Courtis Fuller has said he also supports hiring more officers, although the exact number is up for discussion. He said he wants a study of police staffing before deciding.

        Neither has come up with a specific plan of how to pay for more officers.

        The Fraternal Order of Police did not see much difference in the candidates' crime and safety platforms.

        The police union failed to endorse a candidate in what is arguably the most important race in the city's history.

        There are differences. Mr. Fuller's platform stresses crime prevention and police oversight.

        For example, he would establish a community-oriented prosecution program that would get city prosecutors involved in solving neigh borhood problems — before they become criminal.

        Mr. Luken said the key is in better recruitment and training of officers — especially on police-community relations.

        For example, he opposes a plan to move the police training facility — now on Pete Rose Way — to Spinney Field in Price Hill.

        “I know where Spinney Field is, but I couldn't tell you how to get there,” Mr. Luken said.

        “Why in the world would we want the police academy in a place where nobody can see it?”

        Instead, Mr. Luken wants to move it to Swifton Commons in Bond Hill, where recruits will jog through city neighborhoods and, he hopes, interact with citizens from the first day of their training.

        The candidates are divided on whether the Citizens Police Review Panel — a body created in 1999 to give a second look to police misconduct investigations — should be given its own subpoena power, a measure promoted by many civil-rights advocates.

        Mr. Fuller favors subpoena power. Mr. Luken does not.

        But FOP President Keith Fangman said that's a minor point.

        “Subpoena power has always been a nonissue for our members,” he said. The review panel already has subpoena power through the city manager or City Council.

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