I, like many others, waited for the Police Chief’s 90-Day Summer Safety Plan to be revealed. You remember, back in early June of this year. It seems like a long time ago but was really only about a month ago, when Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was in the news because the mean streets of Cincinnati were starting to look like Dodge City in the old wild west. So as the shots were ringing out, Jeffrey Blackwell was called on the carpet to account to the Mayor and City Manager why this was happening, and what did he plan to do about it. The chief quickly informed his bosses that he was already working on a plan and that it was almost done, to which Harry Black said, “oh yeah, well show it to me by Friday”, or something to that effect. The chief offered to resign but changed his mind and decided instead to ask the community to think of something to help him write the plan that was almost done. As you may recall, Friday came and went but no plan was presented. The City Manager was not upset, he said that was okay, he did not really mean Friday as in Friday but he meant Friday as sometime within seven days of a Friday. (or something to that effect).
Finally the plan was revealed. Curfew Centers! Shift Changes! Personnel reassignment! Overtime for Captains! Almost immediately after the plan was revealed, Blackwell discovered what Lincoln had discovered many years ago, that is, one cannot please all the people all the time. To almost every element of the Chief’s plan there was opposition. The first problem was the concept of enforcing long-standing curfew ordinances. But the laws were not to be enforced in the traditional fashion whereby police officers arrest the offenders and take them to detention. No, instead, the police would escort the misguided youth to one of two area churches where they would be counseled, told of God, and encouraged to lead a more civilized life. They would be encouraged to do so by Pastors, outreach workers and police officers. But wait someone said. We cannot do that. That would violate that “Separation of Church and State” thing that might be somewhere in some document, or maybe it was something someone once said. We must not corrupt our youth with information about God, doing good, and obeying the law. So that part of the plan changed.
New Plan! Curfew violators will not be arrested but will be taken, not to a church but to a recreation center. Once taken there they will be greeted by Pastors, outreach workers, and police officers where they will be counseled, told of God, and encouraged to lead a more civilized life. See the difference. In church there were no basketball courts. But wait, there is more. The plan changed again. The new plan is that curfew violators would not be arrested, or detained, nor would they be counseled, told of God, or encouraged to lead a more civilized life. Instead, they would be left to wander the streets, dodge the bullets and in some cases to fire the guns. Yeah that’s it, that’s the plan, we can now move forward with the Police Chief’s Summer Safety Plan 3.0.
Of course, the curfew part of the plan is not the only part of the plan that has changed. In fact, almost all parts of the plan have changed. The original plan to shift officers from many preferred assignments to street patrol was scrapped. I think someone realized there was value in what many of those preferred assignment officers were doing and that value would be lost if they were transferred. The part of the plan where patrol officers would be put into a different off day rotation was scrapped. Somebody forgot to factor in such things as training days, sick days, etc. Oops! I do not know for a fact, but I suspect there was a lot of push back from the rank and file with regards to that plan to change off day groups. However, the good news is that the Gang Unit will be out on the weekends patrolling the hot spots, if only someone could figure out where those hot spots are. Of course, that is what the Gang Unit is supposed to be doing anyway, so that is not really much of a “new” plan, is it? One element of the plan that seems to have some stability is the part where the Youth Services Unit will be stationed around the recreation centers and pools, to insure the typically crime free parks and pools stay crime free, I guess. But, of the 90 day plan that is in only the beginning of those 90 days, less than 60 days are left until the schools open and the pools close. The Youth Services Unit, of which a large part is composed of School Resource Officers, will then be pulled from the “Plan” and returned to their normal duties in the schools.
From my perspective, this is a plan that has not been planned out very well. In fact, I would feel more accurate in reporting the plan as a knee jerk reaction to pressure on the Police Chief by City Manager Harry Black and Mayor John Cranley. I realize that the police Chief can do little to influence crime trends. Crime trends are typically influenced by social-economic factors, populations shifts, and the current drug of choice in the city (now heroin). But, the Police Chief gets paid the big bucks to try, and if those attempts are not successful then it is the old buck stops here concept. Nobody knows how much of the plan is viable. Cranley said in the beginning that the plan would be fluid, that it would be tried and if it did not work, another plan would be tried. Little did anyone know that the plan would change, several times, even before it was implemented. Maybe that is the plan, to use smoke and mirrors, misdirection and obfuscation to keep the focus on the planning of the plan, hoping that the reasons for the plan will go away on their own.
I love Cincinnati. I grew up in Cincinnati and I worked for over 40 years in and for the City of Cincinnati. I truly hope something can be done to curb the violence. I want my old Cincinnati back. I hope Jeffrey Blackwell is able to do something to improve the quality of life in Cincinnati by providing a safer environment.. If he cannot, I hope his successor can.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
I urge you to comment and discuss. Feel free to disagree. Interested people debating the issues is where the answers will be found.