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Chief Isaac: Cincinnati Is Prepared For Inauguration Day

A woman walks past security fencing protecting the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, as preparations take place for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building.
A woman walks past security fencing protecting the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 8, 2021, as preparations take place for President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration after supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building.

Cincinnati police officers are heading to Washington D.C. to help out during the inauguration on Jan. 20. Chief Eliot Isaac says his force will be ready here, too.

"We are prepared," Isaac told an online gathering of the Faith & Community Alliance Monday. "As we have for every inauguration that I've seen in my 30 years, we will be sending a contingent of officers there to assist. We will also be prepared locally for any challenges that we may face."

Isaac was a guest presenter of the Alliance's "Moral Monday" series addressing civic leadership in times of crisis. He was asked specifically about how local law enforcement is monitoring social media and the internet. Officials are being criticized for not properly preparing for last week's attack on the U.S. Capitol despite obvious and blatant online planing by white nationalists and rioters.

"We are very fortunate here that we are very active in our intelligence gathering - and that does mean monitoring social media," Isaac said. "This part of the state does very well in that. I think it has paid dividends for us in the past. We do try to stay out in front of a lot of that. Fortunately, I believe more often than not we are aware of any large scale events before they happen which allows us to do that adequate and appropriate preparations to make sure we don't have a situation like (what) occurred in D.C."

Isaac specifically pointed to "strong relationships" with agencies like the FBI and the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio. He highlighted U.S. Attorney Dave DeVillers statement that he'll pursue federal charges against local residents who may have participated in the insurrection. The Cincinnati Police Department has officers embedded with the Greater Cincinnati Fusion Center, which brings together health and public safety agencies to monitor and combat potential terrorist activity.

The police chief also discussed the police response to the attack on the Capitol. A recording of Monday's conversation will be made available on the Faith & Community Alliance website later this week, according to Bishop Ennis Tait. Here are a few of the chief's comments:

Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac.
Credit John Minchillo / AP
Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac.

On How The Capitol Attack Differs From Other Marches And Civil Unrest

Isaac described last week's events as different from past civil unrest seen in Cincinnati following the 2001 police shooting of Timothy Thomas, an unarmed Black man, and this summer's Black Lives Matter demonstrations.

"What we saw this past week was an attack on our country. That was an attempt to overthrow our government; to attack the seat of our government. It is something that I have never seen in my career spanning over three decades, and I think the response to that has to be very different. I think that is something that we are going to see unfold in the upcoming months in regards to addressing and prosecuting those individuals that were involved in that."

On consistency in law enforcement response:

"This is very different. This is a terrorist attack, and I believe that the response has to be greater, not less, from a law enforcement standpoint."

On How Law Enforcement Should Change Approach In The Future

"I think that moving forward most law enforcement around the nation are going to be approaching this very differently. Without question - and I don't even think it's debatable - that clearly the preparation that took place on Wednesday versus what we had seen throughout earlier in the year was vastly different. I saw some things that were extremely concerning. I saw a law enforcement entity that very clearly had a vast difference in response."

On Tracking Threats Locally

"There've been a number of things we were able to get out in front of... About a year and a half ago we had a plot of an individual that planned to attack one of our police stations, and through that intelligence through the Fusion Center we were able to apprehend that individual before that took place. There are a lot of things that obviously I am not at liberty to share but we are very much in tune with what's happening nationally and we participate in all of those (internet) platforms as well."

On Racism Within The Cincinnati Police Department

With last week's attack raising questions about white nationalists within police departments, Isaac was asked about the issue of racism within the department.

"I do not believe that our department is filled with racists. Now, are you asking me if there are some individuals that are racists? Absolutely. We are an agency that is over 1,000 and when you count our civilian employees, 1,200 people. If you gather any group of 1,200 people, you're going to have some individuals that have racial bias. How do we deal with that? Through training and through accountability. The ability to hold those individuals accountable. Strong hiring standards - I think we do a very good job of screening our individuals as they are going through the hiring process but it is always something we look for best practices to improve upon."

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Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.