Saturday, March 29, 2003

Police center moving forward

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The community's role in a court-ordered agreement to reform the Cincinnati Police Department could come into better focus soon when the Community Police Partnering Center is unveiled.

Though no formal plans have been announced, some details about the center have surfaced since the Cincinnati Black United Front - the civil rights group best-known for its 20-month-old boycott - announced its intent last week to pull out of the accord.

Parties to the collaborative agreement - the city, Fraternal Order of Police, American Civil Liberties Union and the Front - signed an amendment on Jan. 31 to create the center to oversee the police department's implementation of Community Problem Oriented Policing (CPOP).

The new policing method calls for community councils, business owners and residents to work more closely with police officers to spot and solve neighborhood crime. Improving police-community relations is another key goal of CPOP.

The Community Police Partnering Center is to be a clearinghouse for CPOP efforts, coordinating resources, promoting the program citywide and even training citizens to work with police. The center would be housed in the Urban League of Greater Cincinnati's Reading Road offices in Avondale.

"The police have asked the community for help, so we've set up this structure to let the community really get plugged in," said Ken Lawson, one of the lawyers representing parties in the agreement.

The center, estimated to cost around $10 million, is to be privately funded by Greater Cincinnati corporations and foundations. A number of anonymous donors have already contributed to the fund-raising efforts led by Cincinnati Community Action Now (CAN).

The commission, formed by Mayor Charlie Luken after the April 2001 riots to address economic and social justice disparities based on race, is trying to raise $20 million to fund the center as well as other educational and employment initiatives.

Charlotte Otto, a spokeswoman for Procter & Gamble, said the company recently chipped in $1.5 million.

The money raised will be used to pay for an executive director and 18 staffers to run the center, in addition to other administrative costs.

But some of the donors made it clear, Lawson said, that they would not financially support the endeavor if it included boycott leaders. Faced with that option, the Black United Front opted to pull out of the collaborative rather than jeopardize the center's funding, he said.

CAN Co-chairman Ross Love said he was "hesitant to talk about initiatives that had not been publicly announced."

"The Police Community Partnering Center needs everyone's support including the city's and the citizens' in our neighborhoods because its sole role is to facilitate the organizing of the community to partner with the police department in finding ways to reduce crime," Love said.

A nine-member executive board of citizens, police, city officials and leaders of civil rights and social service organizations will oversee the center.

Those slated to serve on the board include Love and Herb Brown, of Cincinnati CAN; Dr. Calvert Smith, president of the Cincinnati NAACP; Sheila Adams, president of the Urban League; Fraternal Order of Police attorney John Hardin; and Assistant City Manager Rashad Young.

Lawson said this form of policing has had proven successful elsewhere, such as in San Diego.

"If the city wants to reduce crime and make it so police can walk through Over-the-Rhine (and other neighborhoods) without getting cursed at or rocks thrown at them, then this is the way," he said.


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