Cincinnati fires police chief, blaming low morale, weak leadership

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 09, 2015 12:49 PM

By Suzannah Gonzales and Kim Palmer

(Reuters) - Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell was fired on Wednesday, according to a memo from the city manager that cited low department morale and a hostile work environment.

"At a time in which our city, like so many across the country, is facing a dangerous spike in violence, we simply cannot afford such ineffective leadership," City Manager Harry Black said in his memo.

Black also said Blackwell had not provided necessary leadership and had disregarded the chain of command. He added that morale at the department was at an unprecedented low and that Blackwell's leadership style had created a work environment of hostility and retaliation.

Assistant chief Eliot Isaac was appointed interim police chief.

In a separate statement, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley said the situation was untenable and "a change had to be made."

The ouster came only two months after the mayor touted the city's police department in media interviews after a former University of Cincinnati police officer was indicted on murder charges in the shooting death of an unarmed black man. Cranley said then that Cincinnati's police-community relations had been regarded across the country as a role model.

Blackwell could not immediately be reached for comment, but told local media the firing was politically motivated.

"The people of Cincinnati know what I've done, what I've attempted to do, for the good of this entire city, period," Blackwell told CBS affiliate WKRC.

"So, everyone can see through the lines, the political shenanigans that Mayor Cranley and Harry Black have done since I've been here. I'll leave it there," Blackwell told the station.

At a Cincinnati City Council meeting on Wednesday, more than a dozen people signed up to speak in support of Blackwell, who received a standing ovation when it was announced he was in attendance. A crowd at the meeting chanted his name.

Blackwell was hired two years ago, and previously served in the police department in Columbus, Ohio, for 26 years, according to the Cincinnati police website.

According to the city manager's memo, Blackwell used his position to get tickets to sporting events, was obsessed with self-promotion and took selfies along the funeral procession route of an officer who was fatally shot in June.

The memo also said Blackwell used verbal abuse to convey authority and retaliated against his staff after accusing them of being responsible for a local news report about his use of overtime.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago and Kim Palmer in Cleveland; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Peter Cooney)