Saturday, February 1, 2003

DeWine attacks police slowdown

Says Luken should be more demanding of officers

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken should tell police officers that a two-year slowdown in arrests is unacceptable and "will not be tolerated," Councilman Pat DeWine said Friday.

In a speech to the Over-the-Rhine Chamber of Commerce, DeWine confronted head-on a subject that Luken only vaguely addressed in his State of the City speech the day before: the so-called "slowdown" by Cincinnati police officers.

"When the police are publicly talking about a slowdown, someone needs to stand up and say what's on every citizen's mind: If you collect a city paycheck, we expect you to do your job. And if the mayor and the city manager and the police chief won't say so, I will," DeWine told about 40 people at a chamber breakfast at Kaldi's Coffeehouse & Bookstore.

"In Cincinnati, we hear a lot about the principles of accountability and zero-tolerance, but we fail to execute. Maybe there is fear of being called a racist. Maybe there is fear of getting the police union angry," DeWine said.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reported Thursday that arrests continued to be down 30 percent in 2002 compared to 2000, before the police shooting of a fleeing suspect sparked riots and a department-wide investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Luken said Friday he agrees that officers - and everyone else who works for the city - should work harder. But he said no good can come from accusing officers of not doing their jobs.

"Anybody who works for the city should give us a full hard day's work, and I've said so many times. And I'm going to continue to do it by taking it to the districts ... and doing it face to face," he said.

"The past is just that. I can't do anything about it. I recognize statistics don't lie," he said. "But we've made a lot of progress in the past few weeks, and I see no reason to put gasoline on the fire."

In his speech Thursday, Luken cited statistics from the week of Jan. 6: 256 arrests made, 183 warrants executed, 17 guns recovered. But those numbers were inflated by hundreds of hours of police overtime that followed the stabbing of an undercover police officer on Central Parkway.

Friday, Luken swore in a new class of police officers, telling them that reducing crime is everyone's job. "At the end of the day, you work for the same people I work for, and that is the citizens of Cincinnati," he said.

The class valedictorian, Officer Michelle A. Bradley, said the class was full of future leaders with a demonstrated commitment to do just that.

"I want to challenge all of us to utilize all of the principles we learned in the police academy," she said. "And also, do what the police chief has asked, and `Eat more chicken.'"

"Eat more chicken" is the theme of Chief Tom Streicher's pep talk to officers about being more aggressive.

DeWine said he supports police officers, but has run afoul of the Fraternal Order of Police for leading City Council's effort to reject a contract for police supervisors because it did not allow the city manager to hire and fire assistant police chiefs.

The rejection of the contract, by a 7-2 vote, led to thinly veiled calls for a slowdown by FOP President Roger Webster, whose latest newsletter exhorted officers to "take all the time you need."

DeWine said the hiring of assistant chiefs was a key post-riot reform that voters approved as part of the city charter in 2001.

DeWine's speech has been informally dubbed the "Republican response" to the State of the City Address. DeWine shrugged off that label, and took care to credit the mayor and the majority Democratic City Council for the progress they've made.

Indeed, fellow Republican Chris Monzel said DeWine's views don't necessarily represent his own.

"Do I believe the police are purposefully slowing down? No," he said. "It's all perception. With the Justice Department review of the Police Department, if I'm doing my job a certain way and the government tells me to do it a different way, it might take me a little time to get back up to speed."


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