CINCINNATI — Six years ago, with crime creeping upward in the tree-lined, if slightly downtrodden, neighborhoods encircling the University of Cincinnati campus, the city and the university quietly signed an agreement giving the 72-member campus police force authority to patrol nearby residential streets.
The goal was “increased visibility,” university officials say, and the roughly 10,000 students who live in apartments and rowhouses off campus noticed a difference. Campus officers walked them home late at night or gave them rides.
“I feel like crime has gotten pushed out,” said one senior, Jen Steiner, 21.
But the fatal shooting of an unarmed black motorist, Samuel DuBose, by a white campus police officer who now faces murder charges is forcing officials to reconsider a policy in which the Cincinnati Police Department empowered a less racially diverse — and, critics say, inadequately trained — force to patrol an area far more complex than its campus home base.
The Hamilton County prosecutor has called for the campus force to be disbanded; the university has suspended neighborhood patrols and is initiating a “top to bottom” review. Mayor John Cranley said he was concerned about the racial makeup and training of the campus force, and on Friday, Chief Jeffrey Blackwell of the Cincinnati police called for the agreement to be scrapped.
“If we’re going to have one, it needs to be written in such a manner that is very restrictive in what it allows U.C. police to do inside the confines of a large city,” Blackwell said, adding, “I don’t believe their officers have the skill set to police Cincinnati with the same philosophy of fairness and cultural competency that my officers display.”
Cincinnati has learned tough lessons since 2001, when it erupted into riots over of the use of deadly force by the police against blacks. The next year, the city entered into a federal consent decree that, many here say, spawned a new era in policing. But the decree did not cover the campus force.
“This is an island of throwback policing in the middle of a city that actually does policing correctly,” said Al Gerhardstein, a civil rights lawyer.