Recently I viewed a news article regarding the civil unrest currently taking place in Ferguson, Missouri, published by KDSK in St. Louis Missouri. The topic of the article was that Ferguson could learn valuable lessons from Cincinnati, specifically with regards to the efforts taken by Cincinnati following its own period of civil unrest in 2001. The news article was entitled “Lessons Learned From Cincinnati” and began by recapping the events in Cincinnati almost 15 years ago. It was at that point that my skepticism begin to creep in regarding the value of the article, and the sources used as “experts”, identified as a team of “award winning investigators”.
One would think that if the report was to have any validity they would have spoken with individuals who were not only there at the time, but were heavily involved with the aftermath,. Following the civil unrest there was a long period of determining the cause and rectifying the perceived problems. This included an agreement with the Department of Justice and a Collaborative Agreement with various stakeholders to plan how best to proceed. None of the individuals involved in these processes were selected as “subject matter experts” with regards to the “Cincinnati Riots of 2001”. Instead, selected as the experts were a photo journalist Michael Keating who photographed the riots, presumably from behind the safety of his telescopic lens, and TV news anchor, Clyde Grey, whose up close and personal experience is gleaned from video footage and reading a teleprompter. They did not speak with any police officer involved in quelling the disturbance, nor did they speak with any citizen involved in creating the disturbance. At least they would have had some up close and personal knowledge of what transpired. But as is typical in sensational journalism, the point is not to report the facts, the point is to sell what ever the stations sponsors are selling, Boring facts often do not do that.
One item that caught my attention was Clyde Grey describing how Cincinnati Police had successfully diversified its police department following the riots. Cincinnati was described as having an overwhelmingly white police force, a fact that I felt was inaccurate. Of course, what I feel means little to most, but fortunately I have some facts to back this up. You know, facts, those boring things that frequently are left out of a news article so as not to muddy the waters of sensationalism. But, here are the facts. Cincinnati did not successfully diversify its police department following the riots of 2001, Cincinnati successfully diversified its police department following the Consent Decree of August 13th, 1981, signed by the Department of Justice and the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #69. The key word to remember here is “agreement”. Both parties agreed to the changes, none were forced on anyone. As a result of the agreement and changes brought on by this agreement the Cincinnati Police Department was well on its way to diversification after following the Consent Decree for 20 years prior to the violence in 2001.
It was determined in 1981 that male and female African-Americans and female whites were under represented in the Cincinnati Police Department. Hiring and promotions protocols were put into place and by the end of 2000, before the riots the Police Department was 56.4 percent male whites and the rest, non-male whites, comprising 43.6 percent of the department. Today, the department is made up of 51.4 percent male whites, and 48.6 per cent non -male whites. I do not have the actual numbers but I believe the small percentage change of the last 14 years is due primarily to attrition of male whites from the 1970’s having reached retirement age. In a press release issued by the Cincinnati Police Department regarding the appointment of the 104th Recruit Class, it states “Chief Blackwell is proud of the 45% “minority sum” as computed in law enforcement policing models which include female candidates and minorities due to their historic under representation that has existed in American policing. “ I do not disagree with this statement but I submit that hiring and promotions are not a product of the aftermath of the riots but are just how the Police Department has been doing business since the Consent Decree of 1981
I think it is terrific that the Cincinnati Police are being held up as a role model for the Ferguson Police Department to follow. But I think it is equally important to note that the guidance they should receive is based on what the Cincinnati Police Department has been doing since 1981, not since 2001. Those are the facts, you decide.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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