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Cincinnati Group Wants Police Reform Package On November Ballot

A Cincinnati officer interacts with demonstrators outside City Hall, June 2, 2020.
Jason Whitman
A Cincinnati officer interacts with demonstrators outside City Hall, June 2, 2020.

Activists are hoping to get a police reform measure on November's ballot as a charter amendment. People's Safety Reimagined says they want to change Cincinnati's police department into a public safety agency. The group started collecting petition signatures Thursday evening in Cincinnati's Piatt Park.

Campaign Manager Jeremy Schlicher says the effort comes after demonstrations and civil unrest, locally and across the country, over police brutality.

"Police right now and historically, have been set up as essentially a social-order structure. They take money from investing in our communities: economic inclusion, economic development, youth services, parks and rec—things that actually build up our communities," he says.

Schlicher says the proposal would create a public service agency with seven divisions and leadership positions, including an executive director, an administrative division, health and human services, peace officer division, enforcement, felony crimes and citizen complaint authority.

"Police officers, patrol officers are tasked with doing literally everything from suicide prevention to traffic accidents to investigating a murder. When they're tasked with so much, they are essentially overburdened," he says.

The People's Safety Reimagined proposal, Schlicher says, would allow officers trained for specific tasks to focus on those.

"Train them specifically to, say the human services division, they respond to a suicide call or a mental health breakdown or a homeless person who needs a social worker," he says. "And they're licensed and trained specifically to that need, and the collaborative approach that comes into this is essentially bringing on the other departments to back them up in that situation."

He says such an approach will reduce the chance of someone dying in an encounter with officers, reduce stress levels of officers and reallocate funds within the community.

Schlicher says in order to get the proposed charter amendment on the November ballot, supporters need to have enough signatures equivalent to 10% of votes cast in the last city election. That's the 2017 mayoral election, and works out to about 6,400 signatures. Schlicher says they will canvass until Aug. 14, in order to submit the signatures and get them verified.

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Rinehart has been a radio reporter since 1994 with positions in markets like Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux City, Iowa; Dayton, Ohio: and most recently as senior correspondent and anchor for Cincinnati’s WLW-AM.