Apr 17

The Illusion of Transparency

transparencyOn March 2nd, shortly after midnight, the Cincinnati Police department received a 911 called reporting an aggravated burglary that had just occurred. A description of the offender was provided and District 3 Police Officer’s James Davis and Jason Bolte (the ‘e’ in Bolte is not silent) responded to the area. What happened next was nothing less than heroic and is indicative of the brave and selfless acts routinely performed by members of the Cincinnati Police Department. In short, the perpetrator was brandishing a shotgun and pointed the shotgun at the officers. After repeated and unheeded warnings, the officer’s opened fire, striking the suspect , 24-year-old Christian Jackson, several times. Jackson attempted to flee but was overcome by his injuries and was apprehended at short distance away. It is my opinion that James Davis and Jason Bolte should be cited for bravery and heroism and perhaps that is yet to come. The preceding is the good news, and now for the bad news.

As many are aware, one of Cincinnati’s Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell‘s favorite words to use when speaking in public is “transparency”. Apparently this transparency does not extend to his own activities. Following this incident, I received a private message from an anonymous source reporting

“when it was time to notify the command staff, no one could find the chief to contact him and he never returned calls, he didn’t find out about the shooting until the next day.”

I, of course, was not there so I tried to confirm this report before I went any further. It was at this point that transparency went from transparent, to translucent, to opaque, to black. Following are the steps I followed, attempting to verify if Blackwell was notified, how and when he was notified, and if he did or did not respond to the scene. I was fairly certain he did not respond to the scene, because I did not see any photographs of him mugging for the camera on the CPD Facebook page nor his own personal Facebook page, nor his Twitter feed. Based on past performance, he would not pass up a photo opportunity such as this if he were there. That being said, I still do not know if he were there or not. However, the following describes the actions I have taken thus far to find out.

My first impulse was to simply asked someone who may have been on the scene. I sent an email to several assistant police chiefs inquiring what command officers were on the scene. One responded that he was not on the scene and did not know who was, the other did not answer my email. I followed up by sending an email to the Police Department’s Record Section under the heading of “Public Records Request” with the following four questions:

  1. Which command officers (Captain and above) were notified, how they were notified, and by who?
    What time were they notified?
  2. Once notified, did they respond to the scene?
  3. If they responded to the scene, what time did they arrive?

My email was answered by Dianne Nelson, Records Section Manager, with the following response:

“I appreciate your request for public records. The Ohio Public Record Law requires that the City provide you with the records/documents responsive to your request. The Public Records Law, however, does not require that the City answer questions about public records. Therefore, Police Records will provide you with responsive records not considered an exception under ORC 149.43. Under the public records law, information in an ongoing police investigation is not releasable according to ORC 149.43 (A)(2). Consequently, please revise your request for the first item so that we can send provide the responsive records that are releasable at this time. “

Apparently I did not ask the right way. One would have thought that based on the specific questions I asked, the documentation could be provided, but what do I know.

Next I resubmitted my request asking,

“Please provide any documentation, logs, or rounds from any/all Command Officers who were on scene of the recent shots fired by Officer Bolte and Davis. Please provide any documents, logs, or other records maintained by the Emergency Communications Section with regard to the Situational Occurrences Notification List. as required in Police Procedure Manual Procedure 12.550. Please provide the rounds of the night inspector Lt. Tim Brown from the night of the officer involved shooting. as indicated above. Please provide any Commanding Officer’s Daily Rounds, or any emails recorded on the date of the incident as indicated above. Please provide any logs, rounds or emails relative to the incident maintained by Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell. “.

Following that, I have received a copy of the Night Inspector’s rounds for that night, which made no mention whatsoever of the incident. I also have received a copy of the notifications made by Emergency Communications Center (ECC). From that I discovered that Jeffrey Blackwell was left a voice mail and that Mayor Cranley’s cell phone was disconnected. I have had several phone conversations with a Records Section Supervisor. The first asking for clarification on several items, which I provided. The second phone conversation was the same as the first, asking for clarification on the same items (logs and email) as the first. I did not feel as if I was making much progress so I decided I would, once again, email the assistant police chiefs with more specific questions. I asked:

  • What Command Officers (including night inspector) were notified of the incident and when were they notified?
  • What Command Officers (including night inspector) responded to the scene, and when did they arrive?
  • When did Chief Blackwell acknowledge his voice mail, was he on the scene, and when did he become aware of the incident?

One assistant replied “I responded to that scene promptly after it occurred. I don’t have specific information to your other requests”. One would think that if the Chief showed up on the scene, his subordinate might have noticed. Since he did not, I will make an assumption Blackwell was not there. A second respond with the comment “I was not called, nor did I respond” and the third assistant once again did not answer my email.

That is where it is now, almost two months after the incident. I have been promised, but have not yet received, Blackwell’s email of the incident (if they exist). I have been promised, but have not received, the daily rounds of the District Three Commander or any other Captain or above who were on the scene. I have been promised, but have not received any log of events, should such a log exist. I was informed that the Assistant Police Chief’s are not required to maintain daily rounds or any other method of determining what they do, if anything, with their day. Again, I probably did not ask the right question.

All in all, I would have to say that this exercise was a huge success. I set out to get answers and those answers would have been readily available in an administration that was “transparent”. I only wanted some corroboration of the information sent to me. That seems like it should have been quite easy for someone to either affirm or deny. I only wanted to find out whether Blackwell was, or was not, on the scene. I still don’t know.

As a footnote, I thought it only fair that I ask Blackwell directly. I sent an email to him with the following:

“I have received the following from an anonymous source about circumstances at the Officer involved shooting of March 2nd, 2015. The information I have received is:

“when it was time to notify the command staff, no one could find the chief to contact him and he never returned calls, he didn’t find out about the shooting until the next day.”

I am planning to publish a blog article regarding this, and what I have discovered thus far. I would like to give you the opportunity to comment, should you be so inclined.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration

I have received no response from him. So the questions are still unanswered. Maybe someone who was on the scene and remembers seeing Blackwell can leave a comment below and help to clear this all up. But, until I hear otherwise, I am inclined to believe the information provided to me originally is factual. What do you think?

Those are my thoughts, what are yours?

Feel free to comment, like, or share this post. Please consider subscribing. Options to like and subscribe can be found on the right side of the page, or if on a mobile device, at the bottom of the page. Thank you for reading the Townehouse Phoenix.

Facebook Comments

Permanent link to this article: http://townehouse.net/the-illusion-of-transparency/

3 comments

    • Anonymous on April 17, 2015 at 1:13 pm
    • Reply

    You would think public records would be easily accessible and not have to ask for them in a specific way. Also it looks like maybe the Chief doesn’t want to look badly here. So of course he is not responding. I wish we had people that cared more for the city than their self image.

    • Scott Ladrigan on April 17, 2015 at 5:53 pm
    • Reply

    follow the money

    • Anonymous on April 17, 2015 at 8:26 pm
    • Reply

    Has the case been presented to the prosecutor’s office?

Feel free to comment, why should I have the last word.

%d bloggers like this: