Cincinnati police department keeps "Right to Read" program
CINCINNATI (Deb Dixon) -- The city's been talking about spending a lot of money to fight crime. Everything from extra patrols for hot spots to a witness protection program and an anti-gang one too. There was some concern a mentoring program that began in 2013 would be cut so the officers could go back on the streets. That's not going to happen. Interim Police Chief Eliot Issac said the Right to Read program was a keeper. Five Cincinnati Police Officers will spend mornings in five Cincinnati Public Schools tutoring third graders to make sure they pass a state test that allows them to move on to fourth grade.The program was created by Police Officer Donald Jordan and he said, "If a kid is in the third grade and not able to go to the fourth grade, it increases the chance he won't graduate. The kids who drop out of school are the ones we deal with on the street." Jordan said the program was also about breaking down barriers and building relationships for years to come. Nine-year-old Norman Johnson said Jordan helped him dream about the future."He's kind, always helps me, never says no. Tries to do the best for me," said Norman.The Chase Elementary third-grader wants to be a police officer when he grows up. What kind of police officer? He responded, "A reading police officer, or one who helps the community."Partnering with cops is new to most of the children. They used to be afraid of them but not anymore. Teacher Kinah Willis said everyone wants to be in the tutoring program. "They're at an age where their minds can be shaped and molded. If you can mold them and give them a different perception of officers, they will teach their kids what they learned," said Willis.And when these third graders are teenagers, they may run into Andrew Barnette. The criminal justice major at UC is one of the tutors who works with the officers. He wants to be a Cincinnati police officer. "If one day I'm a police officer and I run into one of them, they might say, 'That's the guy who tutored me, and helped me out;' a more positive light," said Barnette.Everyone at Chase Elementary agreed; RIGHT TO READ is so much more than a tutoring program. It's about relationships, changing perceptions about police and right in Ms. Willis' third grade class, it's about improving police community relations.In 2014, Chase Elementary was the only Cincinnati Public School recognized by the Ohio Department of Education as a school showing High Progress.