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U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services
This month’s Photo Contest winner shows five-year-old Jazzy, who is very fond of her Neighborhood Officer, Cincinnati (Ohio) Police Department (CPD) Officer Chip Todd. Jazzy was ecstatic to see that he was outside her school at the end of her first day of kindergarten in September 2021.
“As soon as she saw me, she ran up and jumped into my arms,” said Todd. “After I picked her up, we talked about wearing masks and being strong to fight COVID, so she flexed her arm muscle and asked me to do the same thing for the camera.”
Like Officer Michelle Bockenstette, shown tying a little girl’s shoelace in the background, Todd was delighted to be assigned to walking Jazzy and other children to their after-school program.
Because the community had recently experienced several random shootings, Wesley Chapel Mission, which runs the after-school program, asked the CPD if officers from District One’s Neighborhood Liaison Unit could escort children to their building after school.
As in many other cities, gun violence has taken a toll on children in Cincinnati. To provide the extra support and guidance these children need, the CPD’s Youth Services Unit, which is composed of the city’s school resource officers (SRO), offers several programs.
Among them is Captain Kim Williams’ Children In Trauma Intervention Camp (CITI), an eight week program in which children 12 to 15 years old receive personal guidance from social workers and officers, learning how to deal with anger, resolve conflicts, and respect themselves and others.
The CPD also offers two cadet programs. Public Safety Cadets is a career development program, emphasizing academic study, character development, and self-discipline for youth ages 14 through 20. The Summer Cadet program gives students ages 16 through 19 the opportunity to work part time for the department, earning a little money while learning about community policing and engaging in community service.
Recognizing the toll that gun violence had taken on many of the children in the CITI and cadet programs, Karen Rumsey, the leader of the CPD’s Victims Assistance Liaison Unit, launched two new programs in 2019: Photovoice and “Shoot This, Not That.”
Designed to give kids whose friends and family have been victims of gun violence a tool to express their anger and grief, these programs also addressed the no-snitch mentality that allows the violence to continue.
Said Rumsey, “We came up with the idea to give kids a voice and an outlet through photography in a program called Photovoice, which was developed by Elizabeth Miller at the University of Cincinnati.”
They gave each child a camera to shoot things in their community that represented the devastating loss caused by the no-snitch mentality, as well as things that represented hope and empowerment.
After the young people shared their photos with the group and talked about how the images reflected their feelings, the pictures were displayed in a gallery so that families and others in the community could see how the young people were impacted.
During the course of the project, a filmmaker created a short documentary that tells the story of the children’s efforts to express their emotions visually and heal from their pain. Called “Shoot this, Not That,” it won an Emmy award for a young girl who spoke movingly about her cousin’s murder, as well as an honorary Emmy for the CPD.
A few months later, Rumsey and others involved in the project decided to give the students a voice through music as well.
The result was a rap called “Shoot This, Not That 2.0,” in which each child wrote a verse, sharing his or her feelings on violence in their community, and the CPD's SROs joining in to speak from their perspective. The youths also assisted in the filming, video production, sound, and other parts of the project.
“Shoot This, Not That 2.0” features youth such as Tyasia Person, whose verse spoke about the pain of losing her best friend, a 17-year-old cadet named Aurora, who was fatally shot in 2020 and was memorialized by the students with a photo mural in the program’s meeting room.
The community has reacted very positively to the film, which still streams on YouTube. The kids in the program have remained engaged through a monthly support group and receive weekly group counseling, which includes drug and alcohol education, as well as conflict resolution training.
Rumsey expects to start on a 3.0 version of the project in the near future: “I hope to write a book with the kids about the experience, too.”
Crime prevention is also a major focus of the CPD, and the department has developed a unique program with that goal. Called Place-based Investigations of Violent Offender Territories (PIVOT), it was created in Cincinnati and launched in 2016.
PIVOT is a strategy that focuses on small areas where violence has been chronic, using a problem-oriented approach that employs both focused deterrence and place network interventions to disrupt offenders’ ability to harm individuals and the surrounding community.
In collaboration with representatives from the city’s departments, community groups, regional government and non-profit entities such as Wesley Mission Chapel, the CPD’s PIVOT team has focused on sites throughout the city where crime was concentrated.
PIVOT takes a multipronged approach, including getting drug dealers off streets, talking to community councils, and pursuing criminal charges for landlords who are not keeping up their buildings.
PIVOT team members tell owners that their property has to be up to code, with outside doors able to be locked. Volunteers and community organizations also paint buildings, clean up trash, and do other things to make the community look nicer, which encourages residents to take pride in their surroundings and keep them peaceful.
According to CPD Captain Matthew Hammer, one of the areas of the North Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati’s District One – the area where Jazzy attends school – was plagued by repeated gun violence. But since District One employed the PIVOT strategy there, gun violence in that PIVOT zone has been reduced 75 percent year-over-year.
“We centered our operations on a street where the highest concentration of gun violence occurred, and not only was crime reduced in that location, but it didn’t move to another area of the North Over-the-Rhine. We saw a 50 percent overall decline in the entire North Over-the-Rhine neighborhood.”
PIVOT’s effect on the community has been very positive. The quality of life for all has improved, and the children, whom Officer Todd and the others in his unit are especially dedicated to, are safer.
Faye C. Elkins
Sr. Technical Writer
Photos courtesy of the Cincinnati (Ohio) Police Department.
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