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'Reimagining the police' will likely be on ballots this November

Posted at 5:21 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 20:19:21-04

CINCINNATI — A charter amendment aimed at reimagining the Cincinnati Police Department's role in communities will likely be on the upcoming November ballot for Cincinnati residents.

The group People's Safety Reimagined is behind the proposed amendment and successfully gathered nearly 7,000 signatures; it needed only around 5,000 signatures to get the initiative in front of voters this fall. The Hamilton County Board of Elections said they should be finished verifying the signatures by the end of the week.

The group involved in proposing the amendment argues a new vision and focus is necessary for Cincinnati -- and it doesn't have to mean truly defunding the police.

"This is about reimagining policing," said Petra Hosteltler, from People's Safety Reimagined. "I don't really identify with defunding the police."

The initiative would eliminate the Cincinnati Police Department as it's known today, and cap the organization's budget in the future. It would also create a new Public Safety Department, comprised of six divisions, one of which would include trained and armed officers. The rest of the divisions would focus on mental health, addiction or housing emergencies. The word "police" would be removed from the city charter.

"How do we serve the community that needs to be served?" said Hosteltler. "How do we address mental health issues?"

It's a topic that has garnered widespread opposition and support throughout the city, since the concept of redistributing police funding to other social services became popular as protesters marched throughout the United States earlier this year.

"It's been called crazy and outlandish," said Greg Hartmann, who opposes the charter amendment. "But, I call it dangerous."

Hartmann is now leading a counter campaign he plans to launch if, and when, the initiative is approved to appear on the 2020 ballot.

"It’s the kind of legislation if you don’t have a campaign and communicate to the public what it means, you could end up with something that a lot of the citizens in this community don’t want," said Hartmann.

Opposition to the charter amendment has been echoed by Fraternal Order of Police president Dan Hils and Hamilton County prosecutor Joe Deters. Cincinnati City Council has been mixed overall on their response.

"We have more homicides this year than ever in the city's history," said David Mann, city council member. "This is not the time to retrench."

After the Hamilton County Board of Elections verifies all the signatures on the petition, a report will go to city hall, where the city will determine if the proposed charter amendment is valid.