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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Police Chief Ware and Sheriff Donini Seem To Disagree

“As I mentioned, I have not definitively ruled them (body cameras on police) in or out, but I think it would be naïve to ignore the levels of distrust that exist across parts of this nation between community and law enforcement, regardless of social class, race, religion, gender, age, ethnicity or any other perceived differences. Certainly, the use of cameras could aid in determining what took place in an encounter and perhaps improve behavior on both sides of the encounter.”

 --Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware

Just last week, Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Ware voiced his guarded support for the plan to equip police officers with body cameras, stating he could see positive aspects but was also awaiting results of some studies. Ware has since provided the Times with the results of a study done in 2014 by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) along with the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

(Frank Lewis. "Ware reviews camera study." Portsmouth Daily Times. December 08, 2014)

Amen! A voice of reason in the wake of civil unrest in Ferguson, Illinois, has spoken and acknowledged more than just the conceivably justified police shooting of Michael Brown is afoot in a plethora of actual profiling cases. Chief Ware boldly and convincingly stated what many minorities know -- to ignore the distrust between citizens and public servants is irresponsible.

The conclusion of the study cited by Ware says when implemented correctly, body-worn cameras can help strengthen the policing profession. It surmises the cameras can help promote agency accountability and transparency, and they can be useful tools for increasing officer professionalism, improving officer training, preserving evidence, and documenting encounters with the public.

And, even though, cameras also raise issues as a practical matter and at the policy level, both of which agencies must thoughtfully examine. The report concluded police agencies must determine what adopting body-worn cameras will mean in terms of police-community relationships, privacy, trust and legitimacy, and internal procedural justice for officers.

Ware said. “We could put a half of million officers on our nation’s streets and be able to put them to good use, but it would be at an astronomical cost. As we see in our community, just because the government was willing to fund new officers, budget deficits prevent many communities from paying the matching funds, the fringe benefits of those new hires or retaining those officers upon the expiration of the grants. With good community relations, the citizens become the eyes and ears of law enforcement and the two work together to solve the communities crime problems.”

(Frank Lewis. "Ware reviews camera study." Portsmouth Daily Times. December 08, 2014)

Chief Ware's stances on the issues of body cameras and President Obama's funding initiative seem to be in direct contract to those of Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini. On December 30, the Times quoted Donini as saying ...

“I, along with many of my colleagues in law enforcement, strongly believe that the proposed funding by President Barack Obama, suggested on Monday for new funding to purchase body cameras and training meant to help improve relations between police departments and minority communities to the tune of $263 million dollars, is simply a political response to a sad tragedy and resistance to accepting the process of our American criminal justice system just because the outcome of the grand jury didn’t go a certain way.

“What’s really frustrating to law enforcement is that President Barack Obama has done absolutely nothing to express his concern with these staggering statistics (of police deaths), nor to provide funding to combat this factual data dealing with the senseless murdering of law enforcement officers throughout our country."

(Frank Lewis. "Sheriff questions Obama’s proposal."  
Portsmouth Daily Times. December 03. 2014) 

It is notable that opinions on issues of trust and distrust vary so much in the two major enforcement divisions in Scioto County, a jurisdiction of approximate 80,000 people. Consider the racial makeup of the two areas -- Portsmouth and the rest of the county. You may see some reason for difference in policing theory.

Portsmouth (Estimated 2013 population) 


Black or African American alone (2010)

5.1% (1,042 people)

Two or More Races (2010)

3.0% (613 people)

Hispanic or Latino (2010)

2.2% (450 people)

Scioto county (Estimated 2013 population)


Black or African American alone (2010)

2.7% (2,110 people of whom about half live in Portsmouth)

Two or More Races (2010)

1.7% (1,329 people of whom about half live in Portsmouth)

Hispanic or Latino (2010)

1.2% (938 people of whom about half live in Portsmouth)

The population of 20,430 people in Portsmouth is 26 percent of the population of 78,153 in Scioto County, yet it contains approximately half of the population of minorities. Think about it for a moment. I think you may see some obvious reasons for questioning policing prejudice.

Perhaps the base for political power in our area and the different constituency of the two enforcement departments contribute to their different views about both the need for an increased dialogue about racial profiling and the latest efforts by the President of the United States. I believe in taking a long, hard look at the political influence and power base in Scioto County.

Who can deny questions do exist concerning the priorities of public service officials? What percentage of minorities are even employed in the Portsmouth City Police Department and in the Scioto County Sheriff's Office? Can someone provide these figures?

I believe equality is an issue here as is the difficulty in citizen communications with law enforcement. The Portsmouth Police Chief is open-minded to these arguments while the Scioto County Sheriff seems to deny any real problems exist in the area of profiling and race relations (except for what he considers the reason for the murder of police officers).

Trusted police officials and their officers must be open to change based on factual information and distinguished research. For our community to advance, we must acknowledge areas of weakness and concern. Partisan, rigid control chokes justice and strengthens a thin blue line that demands all to act "their way" without question. Is Portsmouth waking up to a new day and a possible new and better way? Maybe a few adjustments in the county would open avenues that should be explored.

"The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence."  

--Robert Peel  

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