Police Chief Blackwell Fired, Intends to Sue City

City Manager Harry Black announced Sept. 10 that Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell had been fired that day due to “lack of sufficient and proper communication, particularly within the command staff, coupled with a consistent and pervasive disrega

City Manager Harry Black announced Sept. 10 that Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell had been fired that day due to “lack of sufficient and proper communication, particularly within the command staff, coupled with a consistent and pervasive disregard for the chain of command,” according to a 35-page memo from the city.

That memo contained testimony from CPD officials alleging poor leadership from the chief.

The city also released a department climate assessment that says a lack of communication, leadership and technology has contributed to low morale and has put the department at risk of high rates of officer attrition. Assistant Police Chief Eliot Isaac, a 26-year veteran of CPD, has been named interim police chief.

The day of the announcement, dozens of Blackwell’s supporters took to the steps of City Hall and Cincinnati City Council chambers to voice their opposition to the chief’s dismissal. Former chief Blackwell himself appeared at Council’s public input session, though he did not speak before Council.

Afterward, he told reporters outside the chamber that he would file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, saying he didn’t learn why he was being fired from the city and that at the time he still hadn’t seen the reports released about his performance.

Dozens crowded into Council chambers and signed up to speak in favor of the chief.

“If this is justified, give this man, Council, the public, the chance to read [the report against Blackwell],” Councilwoman Yvette Simpson said just hours after the report had been released.

Council members Simpson, Wendell Young, P.G. Sittenfeld and Chris Seelbach, while acknowledging the seriousness of the charges against Blackwell, said they took deep issue with the way in which he was dismissed.

Cranley and Black admonished council members and the public not to rush to judgment, and asked them to read the report detailing the allegations against Blackwell. Cranley called the evidence against Blackwell “overwhelming” and said anyone reading the report would conclude that Black “made the right choice.”

Among the allegations against Blackwell in the report, which includes statements from CPD specialist Scotty Johnson and Director of Communications Tiffany Hardy, are charges that Blackwell has been verbally abusive and retaliatory toward officers, that he has been unavailable during critical moments in recent months, that he played favorites in assigning overtime, that he spent too much time self-promoting, including taking selfies at the funeral of murdered CPD officer Sonny Kim, and that he used his perch as chief to get free tickets to sporting events.

Blackwell has been embattled for months. Early this summer, severance documents between Blackwell and the city came to light, though these were never signed by the chief and he asserted he was staying on the force. More recently, Cincinnati’s Fraternal Order of Police announced a Sept. 14 meeting, and union leadership said officers would take a vote of no confidence in Blackwell. After Blackwell’s firing, union leadership took a vote of confidence in his replacement.

But the chief’s supporters, including some council members and other public figures, say he’s done a fantastic job during a difficult time in the city and that his potential ouster is political in nature.

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