CINCINNATI — Ask anyone who knows Cincinnati Police assistant chief Paul Neudigate and they’ll tell you that his departure to another city is a big loss. He’s leaving the Queen City to become the chief of police in Virginia Beach.
“Thirty years of wearing this uniform and I will tell you and they always ask you, 'Did you always know you wanted to be a police officer?'" he said. “I always knew I did, and I always knew I wanted to be a Cincinnati Police officer."
The answer, he said, is just that simple – which makes it that much harder to leave the force – and the city he’s known for 30 years.
“I achieved everything and more that I wanted as a young boy," Neudigate said.
Universally well thought-of by coworkers and civilians alike, he’s the guy who in the thick of the George Floyd protests walked up to demonstrators and started a dialogue.
“At some point, we have to put ourselves out there,” he said. “It may be uncomfortable.”
Neudigate admitted he wasn’t sure how that situation would work out.
“It was critical,” he said. “I'm not sure it was a defining moment, but it was a moment that helped us manage the situation."
There was a time, Neudigate said, when that might not have happened. In 2001, Timothy Thomas was shot and killed by a CPD officer, sparking riots in Cincinnati.
"At one point, they really got tired of us, of the police department. And in 2001, that was evident,” he said.
CPD’s model for policing wasn’t working, so they changed it.
"What came out of 2001 was a completely revolutionary police department,” Neudigate said. “Not just a Collaborative Agreement, but we have to remember that there was a memorandum of understanding that outlines several changes and use of force that became national models."
When this summer’s protesters handed over their list of demands, he was happy to tell them CPD already has many of them in place – like social workers.
"We already have them embedded in three of five districts,” Neudigate said. “They go out and interact and respond, and to individuals with a psychological imbalance. And when they need police, they call us."
Yet, police agencies nationwide are under fire, and despite tools like ShotSpotter that Neudigate had a hand in implementing, homicide rates citywide are up. He said the pandemic and protests had police on their heels.
"I definitely think there was some of that that, you know, when we pulled back and we're not as proactive in this hotspot, areas they realized that there is an opportunity for enhanced criminality," he said.
Neudigate said there hasn’t been a day in three decades as a Cincinnati Police officer that he hasn’t been proud to wear the uniform.
"Never. No matter what the criticism,” he said. “No matter, you know, where we've been. We're a top-tier, professional, caring, empathetic organization.”
Neudigate said he will eat as much Skyline as he can and spend time with as many people as he can before he moves to Virginia Beach in October.