LAW & ORDER IN THE CINCINNATI POLICE DEPARTMENT
On October 24, 2016, I met with Sergeant Dave Corlett, Military Liaison Group Coordinator at the Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) in Cincinnati, Ohio. In order to help veteran job-seekers evaluate opportunities in law enforcement, I asked Sgt. Corlett to discuss the operations of a mid-size city police department and to explain how law-enforcement jobs might appeal to veterans. Sgt. Corlett, himself an Army veteran, has worked at CPD for 25 years and supervises CPD’s veteran hiring initiative and travels to military installations nationwide to recruit transitioning veterans.
CPD serves a population of just over 296,000 comprised of 52 diverse neighborhoods. The department's 1,000 sworn officers and 125 civilian employees are divided into four bureaus: administration, patrol, investigations, and support.
Sgt. Corlett told me that the department welcomes prior and current military into their ranks. “Of the 1,000 sworn officers employed at CPD, about 277 are military veterans and 36 of those veterans are women.” he explained. In addition, he informed me that there are also 26 officers currently serving in either the National Guard or reserve.
On behalf of the readers of Search & Employ®, I asked Sgt. Corlett to give an overview of CPD’s four bureaus:
Administration Bureau: This bureau, commanded by an assistant chief, coordinates, organizes, directs, and controls activities for CPD operations. The administration bureau implements policy and makes necessary personnel and procedural changes to ensure the effective operation of CPD. The bureau includes the executive staff and fiscal affairs sections.
The fiscal affairs section manages payroll, grants, false alarms, and false alarm reduction efforts. Supervised by a civilian accountant, this section handles the asset forfeiture funds and other restricted purpose funds for CPD. Payroll, employee travel and training requests, logging purchase requests, initiating purchase orders or contracts, and processing invoice payments for all material and service requirements are also managed by this section.
Patrol Bureau: The patrol bureau, commanded by an assistant chief, performs all primary police functions. Patrol bureau personnel respond to citizen requests for police assistance, enforce criminal and traffic laws, investigate criminal activity, take offense reports, and regulate non-criminal conduct. The police department district, central business district, night inspectors, patrol administration, community services unit, and special services sections all fall under this bureau.
The patrol bureau is divided into five districts, each covering an equal portion of Cincinnati. A captain commands these districts. Officers assigned to this section are generally divided into three fixed 10-hour shifts with each shift commanded by a lieutenant to increase field strength when the demand for police service is higher.
The central business district is considered a special district, and is commanded by a captain. This district is responsible for policing the downtown and riverfront areas of Cincinnati. Because of the close proximity to the Ohio River, this district houses the department’s special events and marine units.
Commanded by a lieutenant, the special events unit plans for police presence and coordinates the response of all city departments for special events.
The marine patrol unit, supervised by a sergeant, provides police patrols on the Ohio River during events and other activities occurring on the riverfront.
This section also supervises the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) officers and activities, engages in planning, preparation, coordination, and implementation of the department’s response to critical events (terrorist threats, dignitary protection, mass arrests, and civil disorder), planning, research, and the development of programs that maximize the effective use of department personnel and resources.
The night inspectors are responsible for providing oversight for the entire police department during the evening. They represent the command structure outside of normal business hours.
The inspections section is headed by a lieutenant. This section's primary function is to monitor conformance to department policy and procedure and inspect police units for efficiency.
The patrol administration section coordinates and reviews reports and other information submitted by the districts and night inspectors. A captain commands this section.
The community services unit, commanded by a lieutenant, is responsible for services related to juveniles and other special segments of the population.
The park liaison/canine detection unit, also commanded by a lieutenant, is responsible for oversight of all police canine detection operations and is found in this section as well.
The special services section is made up of the operational support and traffic units and commanded by a captain. Highly specialized squads, like the violent crimes enforcement squad, the fugitive apprehension squad, and the safe street squads, are all housed in the section’s operational support unit. The section’s traffic unit is commanded by a lieutenant and is responsible for coordinating the department’s traffic enforcement efforts.
Investigation Bureau: This bureau is commanded by an assistant chief and handles investigations and gathers intelligence involving vice activity, homicides, sex crimes, crimes against children, and property crimes. This bureau consists of the criminal investigation section and the narcotics & vice section, which are both commanded by a captain.
The narcotics & vice section is responsible for activity related to liquor establishments, prostitution, gambling, drugs, obscenity, pornography, regulatory violations, mid- and upper-level drug enforcement. This section also does pharmaceutical compliance, asset forfeiture, and drug abatement.
The intelligence unit analyzes, stores, and disseminates information concerning organized crime, terrorist activity, and criminally violent groups. The unit is made up of the investigative support squad, the real-time crime center, and the crime analysis and problem solving squad, each supervised by a sergeant. The intelligence unit oversees firearm investigations, fencing of stolen property, pawn shop coordination, auto theft coordination. The unit also conducts monitoring on the internet and social media sites for threats against public safety, and researches best practices in problem-solving efforts for effective responses to compound problems, patterns, trends, series, and sprees.
The regional narcotics unit, a special section in this bureau, is supervised by a sheriff’s department supervisor and is comprised of several cooperating law enforcement agencies to investigate primary sources for the suppliers of illicit drugs in the greater Cincinnati area.
The bureau’s criminal investigation section is comprised of the homicide unit and major offenders unit, which are both commanded by a lieutenant. The homicide unit investigates all violent or suspicious deaths, fire deaths, police shootings, police use of force resulting in hospitalization, prisoner deaths while in custody, potentially fatal assaults, felony patient abuse and neglect cases, kidnappings, and abductions.
The major offenders unit is responsible for the operation of the financial crimes squad, which conducts investigations of financial institution robberies, fraud, forgery, credit card fraud, check embezzlement, extortion, and coercion and bribery offenses, and the personal crimes squad, which investigates rapes and other sexual assault offenses, missing persons, child stealing, and other crimes against children.
Support Bureau: The support bureau, commanded by an assistant chief, oversees the operations of the professional standards section and the training and development section, which are both commanded by captains. The support bureau also consists of the personnel section, the technology and systems section, the evidence and property management section, and the police records section, each of which are managed by a civilian supervising management analysts.
The professional standards section is responsible for investigating citizen complaints and monitoring the activity of the department through unannounced inspections conducted at random.
The training and development section creates and conducts all training programs for the department. These programs include recruit training, in-service training, and firearms training in the firearms training simulator and in live-fire.
The personnel section maintains employee personnel records and coordinates personnel assignments. This section also maintains a liaison between police department employees, the city physician, the police psychologist, and the city’s human resources department.
The technology and system section (TASS), supervised by a civilian information technology assistant manager, supports the department at all levels in planning, purchasing, installing, and utilizing information technology.
The police records section receives, reviews, and maintains criminal offense reports, auto accident reports, and related records, while maintaining computerized criminal and traffic court dockets, court information sheets, and statistical reports. A civilian supervising management analyst manages this section,
The evidence and property management section, managed by a civilian supervising management analyst, is responsible for any property held by the department for the courts or other purposes.
THE REQUIRED SKILLS
In addition to educating our readers on the structure of a mid-sized city police department, I was equally interested in the department’s desire to recruit prior military. I wanted to know, specifically, what qualities make a military veteran a good fit for law enforcement.
During our interview, Sgt. Corlett expressed how he thought law enforcement was a natural step for most veterans and how much the law-enforcement profession values the skills that veterans possess. These skills include professionalism, the ability to function under a chain of command, and an ability to make decisions under pressure.
Here is what Sgt. Corlett said about what his department looks for in a candidate:
What qualities are valued by CPD when looking for a new officer?
Corlett: We want a well-rounded police force, so we consider the officer's personality when giving out assignments. For instance, if you place a former ranger who has experienced three combat tours in a community policing unit straight out of active duty, that individual might not be very well equipped.
We look for applicants that are tactically sound, who will be willing to go out there and chase the bad guys. But we also need people who are socially- and community-oriented. To find this, our recruiting section concentrates on college campuses and events in the different communities we serve because we want that kind of knowledge base.
Why does CPD want to recruit military veterans?
Corlett: Our police chief and the assistant chief of our patrol bureau are Army veterans, so we have learned that soldiers make good police officers and function well under a chain of command. We have found that veterans already possess most of the skills that we desire in a good police officer. The department is roughly a 30% veteran force.
What other qualities do veterans possess that make them good police officers?
Corlett: Veterans function well under stress. When we put a combat veteran into an inner-city area where he’s never worked, he doesn’t have that initial fear of going in.
Another great skill veterans possess is the ability to interact with different populations. Veterans have the ability to mold themselves to the situation, which is probably the number one ability you need to be a good police officer.
Veterans also understand the chain of command. I know that when I give that veteran a directive or an order, it gets followed.
What is one difference and one similarity between law enforcement and military?
Corlett: In the civilian world, things aren’t always as simple as they were in the military. One thing veterans might not be prepared for is the degree of favoritism and nepotism that exists in the civilian world. You may have to work harder to get along with your colleagues. After leaving the military, many veterans miss the comradery and the general order and structure of military life. Luckily, you will find some of that in law enforcement.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing veterans in Cincinnati?
Corlett: Right now, heroin is a large problem for veterans in our area. Access to affordable healthcare is a big issue as well. Many veterans do not know about the benefits and programs available to them.
Here in Cincinnati, for example, we have the Tristate Veterans Community Alliance. The purpose of this program is to connect veterans to each other, provide mentorship to our tristate veterans, and offer opportunities for them to become more active members of their civilian community.
What one piece of advice would you give a transitioning veteran who wants to enter law enforcement?
Corlett: For a law-enforcement job, I recommend beginning your job search one year out from your expiration of term of service (ETS) date. Keep an open mind and do not feel afraid to network, relocate, or start in a lower position than you are accustomed. It takes work, but it’s worth it in the end.
THE OPPORTUNITY TO GIVE BACK: DAVE CORLETT’S STORY
Tell us about your military career.
Corlett: I joined the Army in 1988 and served four years on active duty. After finishing basic training at Fort McClellan, Alabama, I went to flight school at Fort Rucker. My military occupational specialty (MOS) was 93B and I became a forward scout and copilot in an OH-58C helicopter.
In 1991 I was assigned to an Apache attack battalion at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. Shortly after I received operational training in the Apache Unit at Fort Hood, I deployed to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield. I spent 10 months in Iraq and then came back to Savannah. I was there until my ETS date, which was six months after returning from the Middle East.
What stands out as life changing from your time in the Army?
Corlett: The deployment to Iraq was something I will never forget. There I lost two of my dear friends. It happened February 1991 and I still remember that mission like it was last night. I was 19 years old and my unit lost a crew just like mine, made up of soldiers performing the same duties as me.
Looking back on your military service, what is something that makes you proud?
Corlett: To have made it through without any major trauma, either physical or mental. In the CPD Military Liaison Group, we have three basic areas of focus: education, community outreach, and recruiting. As part of the education and community outreach, we teach classes on post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) and the gap of knowledge that exists between military and civilian first responders across the country. To date, we have probably trained 2,500 police officers and firefighters on PTSD.
We also conduct training sessions at the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Conference and the Ohio Crime Prevention Association Conference, which takes place annually.
Can you talk more about the Military Liaison Group?
Corlett: CPD collaborated with organizations like Battle in Distress and the Veterans Administration to form our Military Liaison Group. Our group consists of CPD military veterans and conducts a wide range of activities and programs to assist veterans in the community. We do things like conduct follow-up visits to the homes of veterans struggling to survive, and participate in the area's veteran’s court program. Our goal is to improve the relationship between law enforcement and our nation’s veterans.
The Military Liaison Group has also formed what we believe to be the first nationwide partnership between local law enforcement and the Veterans Administration. CPD officers are available to refer veterans in need, through the liaison officer, to the regional veteran justice outreach workers.
How was your own transition from military life to the civilian world?
Corlett: The best word to describe it is “scary.” When I conduct education seminars on post, I tell the transitioning soldiers that it is the scariest part of your life. When I transitioned, I applied to a half-dozen police departments around the country, including Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Prince George’s County, Maryland. I got a few job offers but when CPD offered me a position, I jumped at the chance.
There was a brief uncertainty just after I got out of the military. For three months between my ETS and my police academy reporting date, my wife and I lived with my parents. I did not have anything else to fall back on. I was scared to death. But with the right network in place you don’t get left hanging. Networking is invaluable. Once you get out of the military, I would suggest finding the local veterans networks or veteran community leaders and make yourself part of their team!
What is the most rewarding aspect of your career now?
Corlett: It means a lot to me to give back to those who have served. About four years ago, I began volunteering with a Facebook group called Battle in Distress. Originally, it was created as a place where military veterans could meet online and talk about issues that revolved around their time in the military. Today’s soldier does not go to their VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) Establishment any longer. They are online, so they follow Facebook pages geared toward veterans. The group was created in response to a need to help soldiers who were struggling and reaching out to the admins of Facebook pages that were not equipped to help them.
The people staffing that page are veterans who volunteer their time, ensuring the page is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to talk with distressed veterans and to help them find necessary resources. Being able to reach out to veterans in the community as part of the police force as well as volunteering with Battle in Distress, allows me the opportunity to give back. To me, that is beyond rewarding.
Kareem A. Simpson is assistant editor and production manager of Search & Employ®. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Kareem is a veteran of the United States Army.
By Kareem A. Simpson