Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Police say some CAN ideas are in works

4 of 6 proposals would expand current programs

By Marie McCain and Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Atop the Cincinnati CAN recommendations for better police-community relations is a philosophy Cincinnati police say they already teach and practice.

        Called “problem-oriented policing,” members of the citywide commission describe it as a strategy linking officers and community leaders to decide a neighborhood's needs and target them. It's an idea taught at the Cincinnati police academy for years, a philosophy instructors say is underlying all police work.

        “It's a way of thinking,” said Sgt. Tom Tanner. “It's a principle, it's what we want to foster for when they get out into the community.”

        Mayor Charlie Luken established CAN (Cincinnati Community Action Now) after the April protests and riots. It advertised its first list of proposals Sunday in the Enquirer. Of the six related to police and justice, all but two would build on existing programs.

        Staffing and funding have not been specified. Some officers complain that the ideas, after eight months of work, are not all that innovative.

        But officials welcome the support.

        “The opportunities have been there,” said Assistant Chief Rick Biehl, who has worked on one of the ideas since 1998. “It's a matter of taking advantage of those opportunities now.”

        Here are the six proposals:

        • Operation night light

        A Boston program, this would pair police and probation officers to make unannounced checks on probationers. The department's Youth Services Section has done that in the past with juveniles. Pairs of officers and probation officers team up on special adult roundups too.

        • Kansas City gun experiment

        Chief Tom Streicher set getting illegal guns off the streets as a priority and established a unit to target them. He recently decentralized the Violent Crimes Task Force, assigning six officers in each district and making guns a priority of theirs too. Soon, District 2 officers will start this as a pilot project, described as using a lot of stops and interrogations in high-crime areas. Officials said it could be linked with a database of violent crime statistics already under way by the Criminal Investigations Section.

        • Target truancy

        Police conduct “truancy roundups” now, but this would focus on specific schools with significant truancy or drop-out rates. On-duty officers would search for chronically absent students who attend targeted schools.

        District 1 officers did a similar program more than a year ago, Lt. Col. Biehl said, and found it effective. Overtime wouldn't necessarily be an issue, he said, because the officers would already be working.

        This proposal would support the school district's “visiting teachers” — essentially truant officers — who work in each school. They identify students with poor attendance and determine whether court action is necessary, said Donald Boegeman, CPS head of security.

        • Community-based juvenile courts

        These exist in 14 Cincinnati suburbs, some dating back at least 10 years. Suggested by Lt. Col. Biehl and Hamilton County Juvenile Court Administrator Jim Ray, this would spread the program to city neighborhoods where people ask for it. One is set to start in Evanston in March.

        The money might come from an existing grant the county receives from the Juvenile Accountability Incentive Block Grant, a federal source that provides about $300,000 to fund the existing courts. That money would have to be spread to cover any new courts too.

        • Youth outreach

        The city's Empowerment Zone Board rejected this idea in 1998. Also in place in Boston, it pairs case workers from social-service agencies with non-violent juvenile offenders.

        Officials have not identified a social service agency to run it or provide counselors. Funding has also not been determined but could come from corporate sponsorship or grants, Lt. Col. Biehl said.

        • Problem-oriented policing

        In 1997, Cincinnati police paired with Great Oaks Joint Vocational School and the National Conference for Community and Justice for a federal grant to start the Tristate Regional Community Policing Institute at Great Oaks. It continues there today.

        Lt. Larry Powell, who oversees the police department's 52 neighborhood officers, said his people practice the philosophy daily, including going to community council meetings. He also used the city's eight Citizens on Patrol groups as examples.

        “It's like diversity or ethics,” said Barry Webb, acting director of the police academy. “We intertwine it in everything we do.”


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