Spotlight On…   The Cincinnati Police


Since the April 2001 riots, the Cincinnati Police Department has stood at the center of intense local debate as well as judicial scrutiny. Racial profiling, the training and discipline of officers, and troubled community relations are only a sample of the issues that Tri-State residents are now confronting on a daily basis. The Information and Reference Department has identified the following resources to aid in the understanding of our city’s police force, past and present.

Origins & Overviews

When Cincinnati incorporated as a village in 1802, a ‘night watch’ was established, primarily to guard against fire, but also to ensure the peace. The organization of a police force similar to those in other cities came in 1859 with the appointment of the first police commissioner. Since its beginnings, the local police department has been challenged by riots and politics that create a tumultuous and fascinating history. Both the Cincinnati Historical Society and the Library offer materials by and about the Cincinnati Police Department, most located in the Information and Reference Department. Search “Cincinnati Police” as a subject or author in the Library Catalog to locate historic items such as the following:

Our Police: A History of the Cincinnati Police Force
George M. Roe
An 1890 history of the police since the days of the night watch with many biographies and pictures of early officers.

The Policeman in Cincinnati
Marguerite Wykoff
A 1929 vocational pamphlet describing to students the rigors of the job, located in the Rare Books Department.

Annual Report
R353.360977 qC574Zc
The CPD’s annual reports from 1929 up to the present.

Cincinnati Police Division Procedure Manual
This manual plus separately published standards and training manuals of the CPD are available at the Library.

Mystery fans may also enjoy Eyeshot, a novel by Lynn S. Hightower, starring a Cincinnati policewoman on the trail of a possibly murderous District Attorney, available in the Popular Library.

Changing Times

The Cincinnati police first found themselves the object of national criticism in the 1970s, when the Ohio Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigated complaints regarding “discriminatory justice” and the problematic “use of force.” Several federal documents from that era provide external perspectives on the CPD and can be located in the Information and Reference Department.

Policing in Cincinnati, Ohio: Official Policy vs. Civilian Reality
The final 1981 report by the Ohio Advisory Council, presenting its findings and recommendations.

Job Stress and the Police Officer
P.D. HE 20.7102:J 57 1975
Papers on stress treatment from a national occupational safety conference held in Cincinnati, including a local study of how rookies can be selected based on psychological preparation for the job.

Cincinnati: Public Attitudes about Crime
P.D. J 26.10:SD-NCS-C-22 1979
Criminal Victimization Surveys in Cincinnati
P.D. J 1.42/3:SD-NCS-C-9 1977
National Crime Survey reports presenting local opinion on victimization, crime, neighborhood safety, and police performance.

The Cincinnati Police-Juvenile Attitude Project
P.D. J 1.33/2:O 52
Robert Portune of the University of Cincinnati supervised the development of this police-teacher curriculum through which juveniles may improve their impressions of and relationships with local law enforcers.


The April 2001 riots, sparked by the shooting of African-American Timothy Thomas by Officer Stephen Roach, threw the Cincinnati Police Department back into the national eye. The outcry prompted a U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division investigation that culminated in a federal agreement with both the City of Cincinnati and the Cincinnati Police Department towards the improvement of area law enforcement. Along with new publications on community policing and public relations, this Memorandum of Agreement may be viewed online or in print in the Information & Reference Department. The first quarterly status report, in which the CPD’s compliance with the Memorandum is reviewed, has been posted to the CPD website with other collaborative documents. Additional information on Cincinnati Police Practices (including the Final Settlement of the U.S. District Court) is available on the ACLU’s website.

A lengthy review of racial profiling in Cincinnati by the consulting firm RAND Corporation led to the study “Police-Community Relations in Cincinnati.”

A concurrent internal investigation of Officer Roach was carried out by the Cincinnati Police Department, culminating in a report released to the public. Numerous newspaper articles tracking the riots, the investigations, the ensuing boycott, and the creation of Cincinnati CAN (Community Action Now) task force and the Citizen Complaint Authority may be searched via Newsdex. Type in “Cincinnati (City) Police Department” as the main subject heading in order to retrieve lists of articles on the CPD over the years, all of which may be read in the Magazines & Newspapers Department. More information can also be found in the RAND report, Police-Community Relations in Cincinnati. See also the local media’s joint archive of news stories and links online pertaining to recent developments in our community’s race relations.

Police Departments in Large Cities

Information on the current Cincinnati Police Department is online, including recruitment information, neighborhood crime statistics, photos and descriptions of missing persons as well as Cincinnati’s Most Wanted, and a memorial to officers who have died in the line of duty. The website also offers online forms for citizen complaints and service feedback, as well as a list of neighborhood assignments for police officers. Cincinnati was also included in a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, Police Departments in Large Cities, which offers a statistical profile of department personnel and equipment.

The Cincinnati Police conducts ongoing recruitment for new police officers. The Information & Reference Department’s collection contains several study guides for general police exams. The Cincinnati Police webpage contains a detailed document called “Police Recruit Information Guide” for those who are interested.