We Don’t Need More Cops on the River

Maybe this is what happens when Cincinnati City Council approves the hiring of 65 new police officers — even when the police chief never made such a request and initially said the new cops weren’t needed.

The Cincinnati Police Department announced this week that it would create a new marine unit to patrol the Ohio River. Police supervisors decided to start the unit after the department won a $141,000 federal Homeland Security grant to buy a patrol boat. The boat is supposed to be used to help the agency watch local bridges and shorelines for possible terrorist activity, but may also be used for other purposes like catching drunken boaters.

Having police create the marine unit raises a number of troubling questions.

First, it would be fair for officials in places like New York and San Francisco to question whether the grant is the most effective use of Homeland Security money in a budget cycle that saw much larger cities — which are more likely terrorist targets — short-changed in their requests. Make no mistake, federal grants ultimately come from taxpayer money, too.

Also, while the grant might cover the cost of the 23-foot Sea Ark boat, the unit still must buy equipment and uniforms and needs 16 officers to operate. Those 16 cops are people who will be taken away from other duties at a time when many residents are pressing for more officers — not fewer — to be assigned to neighborhood patrols.

Moreover, there is no compelling need for Cincinnati Police to join the myriad of other law enforcement agencies that already patrol the river. The U.S. Coast Guard, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and Boone County Water Rescue all have jurisdiction and boats in the Ohio River.

Certainly the police department’s time and resources could better be spent elsewhere. With rising homicide and shooting rates in Cincinnati during the past few years, the situation has gotten so bad that elected leaders have allowed Hamilton County Sheriff’s deputies to patrol in city neighborhoods like Over-the-Rhine for the first time.

Too often, government officials turn a blind eye to the spending by police agencies, which are politically popular. Meanwhile, the agencies often buy large, expensive “toys” that aren’t essential to their mission. After all, if Sheriff Simon Leis Jr. didn’t haul out his department’s battle-ready tank during the 2001 riots, then there probably is no occasion except for a foreign attack on the Queen City in which the device probably would be used.

As other city departments face the possibility of steep budget cuts in the next few years to ward off deficits — bringing with it the specter of closing some health clinics, public swimming pools and other amenities — the mayor and city council should be mindful about how taxpayer money is spent.

— Kevin Osborne

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8 Comments on “We Don’t Need More Cops on the River”

  1. David Gallaher Says:

    If Semper Si can have an Air Force, not to mention a Scottish bag pipe band complete with kilts, why can’t Chief Striecher have a little bit of a Navy?

    Is this a manifestation of the military-industrial complex or the prison-injustice complex?

    Whatever. Local politicians threatening to vote against it face intimidation at the very least.

  2. Neal Watzman Says:

    Help me understand something here. What river are we talking about? Isn’t the Ohio River a part of the state of Kentucky? Does the City and/or Hamilton County even have jurisdiction on the river?

  3. Bert (not Ernie) Says:

    The fact this immature spending by the city council continues is ridiculous.

    How can a city so behind the times, so over-stretched, so under-budgeted continue to make awful decisions like this?

  4. Every Cincinnatian Says:

    Our police need this watercraft if they are to apprehend those of us who wish to avoid the harsh penalties associated with smoking marijuana that exist only in our City by taking to our waterways. How else will our protectors effectively enforce this statute with which our leaders have graced us.

  5. NBS Says:

    My thoughts exactly, Neal.

  6. Whatever Says:

    Actually, the penalties for marijuana possession are far higher in Kentucky and Indiana than even the new Cincinnati law. It’s amazing that people aren’t over there protesting their far more draconian treatment of basic possession. If the goal is to find the best place to smoke pot with the least punishment, the boats would be coming TO Cincinnati from Kentucky.

  7. Marilyn Says:

    Hmm, well maybe it’s not all bad…

    While they are cruisin’ along in their 23-foot Sea Ark boat, they can spy on Northern Kentucky’s booming waterfront and perhaps get some insight into what needs to be done on this side of the river.

    Wait. I just lost my mind. Insight is a foreign concept in Cincinnati.

  8. mc Says:

    Does anyone actually know why we can’t have these new hires on the street in the areas which asked for them?


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