Citizens On Patrol
History of Cincinnati’s Citizens on Patrol Program (COPP)
The Cincinnati Citizens on Patrol Program (COPP) was proposed by several Cincinnati City Council members in 1997. The program was modeled after one in Fort Worth, Texas. City Council approved the initial use of $35,000.00 in Federal Local Law Enforcement Block Grant money for the implementation of the pilot program.
The responsibility for developing the program was assigned to the Community Oriented Policing (COP) Coordinator. The responsibility for administering and coordinating the neighborhood-based program was assigned to the District Commanders.
Three target neighborhoods in Cincinnati were chosen for the pilot project: Bond Hill (Still operating), Madisonville (Still operating), and South Fairmount (Disbanded). Council members and police officers attended community meetings in each of the three neighborhoods to explain the project and solicit volunteers. Application forms were developed and sent to the volunteers, along with a letter of explanation by the COPP Coordinator.
COPP training is a 12-hour training seminar, presented at the Police Academy. A minimum number of 20 students are required in order for a COPP training session to be cost effective. Additionally, members are strongly encouraged to participate in at least one 8-hour ride-a-long annually (optional).
In the winter of 2002, a sworn officer was appointed to oversee the Citizens on Patrol Program, which at that time had seven active units patrolling (Madisonville, Mt. Washington, Northside, Price Hill, College Hill, Westwood and Camp Washington). By the summer of 2002, the program had tripled in size and was active in twenty-one of the City’s neighborhoods. During that time, a Civilian Coordinators Committee was formed, which connected members to a city-wide resource network, enabling them to address quality of life issues more proactively through teamwork.
Equipment needs for the various neighborhood patrols have always been a top concern of Police Administration. Members were initially furnished with non-distinct dark blue jackets, grey embroidered golf shirts and dark blue caps with “Citizens on Patrol” embroidered in yellow. At the request of program volunteers, their jackets and shirts were updated to bright royal blue with “Cincinnati Police Department Citizens on Patrol” boldly silk screened across the back.
In the initial program roll-out, winter patrols were not considered feasible, but volunteers quickly identified their desire to patrol year-round. As a result, heavy storm jackets with matching winter toboggans were furnished. These modest uniform changes have taken patrols from anonymity to become a highly recognized volunteer faction of the Cincinnati Police Department.
While patrols have always been predominantly walking and fixed, it became evident that patrols could be much more effective if members had a vehicle to accommodate transportation, special events, and handicap needs. One particularly motivated member of the Madisonville patrol took the initiative to secure a retired mini-school bus, which was painted to match uniform police cars and decked out with lights and an equipment locker. The Department gradually increased the program’s vehicle fleet to 11 cars throughout the five districts.
Currently, thirty one out of Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods have patrolling units established from a very active 500-member program.