CINCINNATI — The local debate over police funding rages on with some activists connecting virtually with elected officials in their calls to take money away from law enforcement agencies for social services.
The Grassroots Law Project met with Cincinnati City Councilmember Chris Seelbach Tuesday about re-allocating portions of the Cincinnati Police Department’s budget and why more hasn't been done to defund the police.
For some during Tuesday's virtual roundtable, it was the story of a traffic stop. For others, alleged profiling in a park.
“My first experience with police came not too long after I moved to the States,” said panelist Deji Oduwole.
No matter their reason, those who took part in the virtual roundtable believe it’s time to take a hard look at the role of policing, how departments are funded and whether calls for non-violent offenses can be handled by other agencies.
“To me this is really irrational, irrational how we’re spending the money,” said panelist Bao Nguyen.
Seelbach says a change in the city charter is likely the best route to re-allocate that money. He says Cincinnati and cities around the country are currently bound by contracts with police unions.
“We’ve cut every single other department in the last 10 years, except police and fire,” Seelbach said. These other departments have been decimated.”
Gene Ferrara, a former UC Police chief with decades of experience including officer training, said just because defunding police sounds simple doesn’t make it so.
“I think as a former police chief, there were calls that I wish we weren’t making but there wasn’t anybody else,” he said.
He remembers when police - not firefighters - handled medical runs. He agrees with reallocating some responsibilities like nuisance complaints, but said money is another issue.
“It’s got to come from personnel, and if (the agency) does that run that you really needed police for that used to take five minutes could take 10 minutes because that officer’s going to be further away.”
Ultimately, the people at Tuesday's virtual roundtable were looking for change in future budgets and hope conversations like these will be a start.
“98.7% of what makes a community safe is not policing but everything else,” said panelist Trevor Kroeger.
The Grassroots Law Project is reaching out to other members of council and hopes to continue the dialogue in hopes of changing future budgets.