The MARCC Identification Card Project

Greensboro ID 2

If you are an undocumented immigrant, you face problems dealing with the bureaucracies that perform essential services in our society.  Unable to produce a valid ID, you might be unable to open a bank account. Furthermore, any contact with the police can escalate to being detained while the authorities determine who you are, which in turn involves notifying US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which might eventually lead to deportation.  Having nowhere safe to put your money, you carry your meagre earnings with you.  Having so much incentive to avoid the police, you have essentially no police protection.  You become a “walking ATM”, an easy victim for robbery.  Naturally, the criminal might target anyone who looks like an he might be an undocumented immigrant, extending the misery to a large portion of Hispanics in the community.

Several communities around America have devised a simple way to address this problem: issue people an ID.  This is coming to Cincinnati.  The Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati (MARCC) has entered into a “memorandum of agreement” with the Catholic Charities of South West Ohio to produce identification cards for people who want them.  They are modeling their program on the one organized by the FaithAction International House in Greensboro, NC.

This initiative emerges from recommendations of the Human Services Committee, part of the  Immigration Task Force formed by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley.  Two of the recommendations of the committee are pertinent to this initiative:

  1. a city-wide ID for immigrants,
  2. a fair detainment policy by local police.

GreensboroID

The first step is to establish some program to issue an ID.  The city government cannot do this, because the data collected would become a source of information for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and nobody would participate.  The plan is to have the ID cards sponsored by MARCC, with the MARCC logo on the card, and administered by Catholic Charities,  which already serves a wide population and is used to treating the information of its clients as confidential. Thus, it becomes possible to issue the documentation without that data becoming a tool for immigration law enforcement.

A follow-up step is to have a city ordinance enabling city departments, including the Cincinnati Police, to honor the MARCC ID card.  For example, a police officer could issue a traffic ticket to one someone with such an ID without taking him to the justice center.

MARCC has established the following budget for the initial start up costs (source: “MARCC Identification Card Project”: hand out at MARCC delegates meeting, 9/9):

  • Alpha Card System, with workstations                $4,600
  • Administrative Costs                                                700
  • Legal / Professional                                                  750
  • Travel to Greensboro to see operation                      950
  • Total                                                                     $7,000

(Note that staff time for planning and preparation is not included.)

Procedurally, MARCC plans to follow the example established by the program in New Haven, CT, which was copied by Greensboro.  This program requires that the applicant produce both proof of identity and proof of residency.  The MARCC ID card will expire after one year.

MARCC is trying to raise $10,000 from its judicatories to get the project off the ground. Once it is going, the project is expected to be self sustaining, using the fees ($10 or $15)
charged to the applicants to cover the expenses for the program going forward.

Cincinnati is not planning to become a “sanctuary city”.  However, the city does appear ready to take this small step to make life better for a some of the people who choose to live here and, consequently, better for us all.

Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell is Fired

Blackwell facebook

Jeffrey Blackwell

I first heard about the firing of Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell at the delegates meeting of MARCC (Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati).  Among this group of faith based community activists, this news was greeted with cry of dismay.

Over the past year, I have posted several times about Chief Blackwell and the department: Constitutional PolicingCincinnati’s Ferguson Protest: a Personal View, and Cincinnati Deals with a Police Shooting.  I have the greatest respect for Blackwell’s vision for how policing should be done in this country. I had heard some grumblings about his self-promotion, but I was pleased that his ideas were getting more attention. He was often away, but I had assumed that a well run organization like the Cincinnati Police Department did not need baby sitting by its chief.

At a MARCC meeting (12/10/2015), Blackwell spoke of the need to replace that old policing model, “Big Me, Little You”, with one that valued and respected the rights of the citizens, and built up the relationship between the police and the community. What I did not know, could not know from my position on the distant outside, was that Blackwell did not apply these principles to his own behavior within the department.

PoliceSurvey

I have read over the Cincinnati Police Department Climate Assessment.  I always view such reports with a grain of salt, especially when the outside organization confirms the point of view of the person that hired them. The organization, Make It Plain Consulting, has a good reputation, having been awarded “Emerging Business of the Year” by The South Central Ohio Minority Supplier Development Council. I find no evidence of bias in the report. It states that morale is low. It sites three areas of concern:

  • Communications. ““the department lacks effective communications up and down the chain of command”
  • LEADERSHIP: “the dissention and mistrust among the Police Chief and Assistant Chiefs (Patrol Bureau and Investigations Bureau) is the primary reason for the breakdown of flow of information and the perception of lack of leadership.
  • TECHNOLOGY: “Technology and equipment is outdated and/or redundant.”

Though this last point cannot be addressed without appropriate budgetary support, the other two clearly belong on Chief Blackwell’s plate.

The memo from Harry Black, City Manager, where he announced to city council that he fired Jefffrey Blackwell “for cause”, paints an even darker picture:

Blackwell uses verbal abuse and insult to convey authority. Individuals have been threatened and berated, in the presence of subordinate officers, superior officers, and members of the public.

….

Equally disturbing, a culture of hostility and retaliation instituted by Mr. Blackwell has put the integrity of the police department at risk.

Black provides supporting documents written by current Assistant Police Chiefs and others.  Here is a sample:

From Captain Paul Broxterman:

Unfortunately, I believe the chief has little regard for the opinions and suggestions of his commanders. Instead, he relies on the counsel of his inner circle. The chief’s inner circle, which includes non-supervisors and civilians, is often allowed to circumvent the chain of command, leaving middle managers and command officers powerless. I believe morale among command officers is the lowest I have seen in my 27 years with the Department.

There is no doubt Chief Blackwell has excelled in community outreach. He is passionate in reaching out to the youth in our city and he strives to provide them with guidance and hope. Sadly, he has failed to do the same within our Department.

From Assistant Chief  David Bailey:

From the onset, Chief Blackwell essentially ignored recommendations from his command staff and instead set up an alternative advisory team who he considered as “loyal”.… The reward for the Lieutenants’ loyalty was unsupervised overtime and on call status city owned cars, which was the subject of recent investigative media reports.

When the Inspection Section attempted to conduct an overtime audit of the Quality of Life Team, Lt. Barb Young was told by the Police Chief they did not have his authority to conduct the audit and were told to cease auditing functions until told otherwise. Their Inspections Section office was immediately moved from the Spinney Field complex to the second floor of 310 Ezzard Charles Drive presumably for control or humiliation purposes. The unit was then later reassigned to report directly to Chief Blackwell.

Ironically, Chief Blackwell was able to opine on a national platform on how other cities should be conducting their affairs, when he was unable to communicate even a most basic operational plan or strategy to his own department.

Eliot Isaac and Harry Black

Eliot Isaac and Harry Black

from Eliot K. Isaac, now acting Police Chief

I have attempted to mediate the relationship between the Chief and Assistant Chief Bailey with little success. It has clearly deteriorated over the past two years and is sadly beyond repair.

There is plenty more, from Blackwell’s constant self promotion to his search for free tickets to sporting events.   He comes off as an arrogant ass.

Even Blackwell’s former supporters have turned. Scotty Johnson, past president of the Sentinels, an organization for black police officers, said in an email, “I have never witnessed such hostility and lack of respect for employees.”

In response to all of this, Blackwell has claimed “I’ve had the support of the White House, the attorney general, the national media…all of the national think tanks of policing, but I could never get the support of John Cranley or Harry Black, and because I’ve never had their support — ever — I was never able to command the department the way it should have been led.”

All this might be true, but the problems described in the report had nothing to do with his relationship with Mayor Cranley and City Manager Black.  The toxic work environment was his own creation.

I have concluded that the firing was indeed justified. I find myself in agreement with City Councilman Chris Seelbach:

I have supported Chief Blackwell and his approach to community policing from day one.

That being said, the statements outlined in the City Manager’s memo by respected members of our police department are concerning and not reflective of the many positive stories from officers and community members I have heard from.

What is most clear is that this is a sad day for the City of Cincinnati.

Abolishing the Death Penalty in Ohio

Now that the Supreme Court has settled the Constitutional issue, the battle to abolish capital punishment moves to the states.  In Ohio, bills to abolish the death penalty have been introduced in both chambers of the legislature.   Ohio House Bill 289 was introduced by Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Representative Niraj J. Antani (R-Miami Township).  Ohio Senate Bill 154 was introduced by Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo).

Niraj J. Antani

Niraj J. Antani

The lone Republican in the list of sponsors and co-sponsors, Representative Niraj J. Antani, describes himself as pro-life and for small government.  He is one a small group of legislators who apply the same moral principles to both abortion and capital punishment.

I have written to my state senator, Cecil Thomas, a former police officer.  In my letter, I mentioned my idea of a compromise, which would allow the death penalty to be applied to cop killers.  It turns out that nobody, not even this former police officer, likes this idea.   Here is the complete text of the reply from his office (used with permission):

Cecil_Thomas

Cecil Thomas

Thank you for reaching out to Senator Thomas to express your views on the death penalty. The Senator always enjoys hearing from his constituents and uses your input to form his positions on issues.

Senator Thomas has been a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 154 since its introduction because he opposes the death penalty in all cases. He recognizes the moral and religious questions surrounding the death penalty, as well as concerns over executing innocent people. In fact, Senator Thomas and I spent about an hour with 3 former death row inmates later exonerated by either DNA evidence or recanted testimony just a few months ago.

It is also notable that you mentioned the discrepancies that often exist in the legal resources of capital defendants and the prosecutorial team. Because of these discrepancies, those executed on capital offenses are disproportionately poor people of color. For these and other reasons, Senator Thomas supports Senate Bill 154, which would abolish the death penalty. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions on this or any other issue.

Best,

David Roper

State Senator Cecil Thomas

Similar bills abolishing capital have been introduced before in Ohio, to no avail.  However, momentum is building around the country: just this July, Illinois became the 19th state to abolish the death penalty.

Now would be a good time to write your Ohio state representative and senator.  If you have lost track of who your state legislators are, find out at this friendly web site: https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/legislators/find-my-legislators.

With God’s help, and a little old fashioned activism, we can make Ohio the next state to abolish this barbaric practice.