CINCINNATI — An agreement reached between the Cincinnati Police Department and UC Police allows university officers to make a traffic stop off-campus if there is an immediate risk of serious harm.
Until around 2005, UC's police did not have powers off-campus unless requested by CPD. When crime increased, though, things changed.
"The city's motto is Juncta Juvant. It loosely translates to 'together we're stronger,'" said former University of Cincinnati Chief of Police Gene Ferrara. "It's about mutual aid. It's how the city evolved."
Ferrara said UC students and staff were increasingly becoming victims of crimes, so the city and university drafted a memorandum of understanding.
"We were not going to do proactive policing," Ferrara said. "It was simply high visibility and support for the city."
Ferrara said crime went down nearly 8% every year leading to July 29, 2015.
"Somewhere along the lines, someone decided to escalate the activities of the university police office. That was never what was intended, never what we wanted," Ferrara said.
Former UC police officer Ray Tensing fatally shot Sam DuBose, a 43-year-old driving without a front license plate, in Mount Auburn near — but not on — the University of Cincinnati's campus. Body camera footage showed Tensing ask DuBose for his driver's license, which he said he did not have with him.
In the recording, Tensing asks if DuBose's license is suspended and attempts to open the driver's side door of his car. DuBose closed it, put the car in drive and accelerated. Tensing shot DuBose in the head, killing him. Tensing later claimed he was dragged by the car — a claim disproven by his body camera recording — and feared he would be run over.
"The unfortunate circumstances that led to the Tensing incident with Dubose, they had changed things to a proactive stance," Ferrara said. "They wanted university officers to actually engage in policing out in the streets."
In the six years that followed, UC's off-campus presence has been limited. Now, a memorandum of understanding has been written, including restrictions. UC officers can only act off-campus if an offense is a significant enough threat to public safety, and "proactive" traffic stops are not allowed.
"I think it's the right thing to do," Ferrara said. "We know it works; we have the data to prove it. It's consistent with the Cincinnati motto 'together we're stronger.'"
As part of the agreement, both agencies will meet once a month for crime reduction meetings to figure out areas of collaboration and improvement.