There is an old idiom about a bad penny and such seems to be the case about former Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffery Blackwell, who was fired as chief on September 9th, 2015. I believed that would be the end of my commentary on the matter with what I thought was a last post, but, like a bad penny, stories about Jeffery Blackwell keep turning up, and the most recent is the most incredible of them all.
In all fairness to Mr. Blackwell, this article is not really about him. It is more about politics, City administration, and fiscal irresponsibility. Blackwell was fired for cause, and the cause was well documented and presented. That should have been the end of it. But as history shows in the case of most firings of Police Department employees, the firing is only the beginning, and not likely to take hold. As he promised on the day he was terminated, Blackwell filed suit against the City and the matter was negotiated, the history of Jeffrey Blackwell changed. He was no longer a Police Chief that had been fired, he was now a Police Chief who had resigned. That will look better on his résumé.
Along with his change in status, his bank account also inflated to the tune of over a quarter of a million dollars. That is healthy compensation for a mediocre performance as police chief. This mediocrity and substandard perforce was rewarded and contrary to John Cranley’s blustering, it was done secretly. A negotiated settlement between Blackwell and the City was finalized last August of 2016, but it seems to have slipped the mind of those involved to mention it to anyone, including City Council and the public, if John Cranley is to be believed.
So, why should you care? If you live or work in the City of Cincinnati, you are paying taxes to the City of Cincinnati. The money paid to Blackwell came from the city coffers, which, for the most part, are funded with your tax dollars. So you, as a hard-working taxpayer, paid Jeffrey Blackwell a large sum of money for a mediocre tenure as the Police Chief. To put it in simple terms, it was your money they gave away.
Jeffrey Black well was able to be hired as the Police Chief due to voters mandate some years back known as Issue 5. Prior to Issue 5 the police chief was selected and promoted that same as all other ranks in the Police Department, by achieving the best score on the promotional exam. Issue 5 changed all that and allowed the Police Chief (and assistant Police Chiefs) to be hired directly by the City Manager. An individual did not need to be from the Cincinnati Police Department, or from the City of Cincinnati to be considered for the position. Who was hired was the decision of the City Manager and presumably the City Manager would pick the most qualified from the list of candidates. Clearly this did not happen with Blackwell, as document here. Before issue 5 the Police Chief was protected by civil service law and could not be terminated at the whim of the City Manager, as is now the case. After issue 5 the Police Chief became a political pawn of the City Manager and the Chief could be hired and fired at will. I think anyone can read between the lines here and determine that if a Chief values his/her job, then they will need to stay aligned with the wishes of the manager.
One last point. This recent release of information about the Blackwell settlement has caused some tension and infighting at City Hall, particularly between the Mayor and Councilwoman Yvette Simpson. Since Cranely and Simpson are going to be opponents in the upcoming mayoral election, it is obvious what is going on here. You must ask yourself, do you trust a man who promises to stop the street car as a promise for your vote and immediately rescinds this promise upon election, or a man who secretly negotiates away your money and then acts surprised when he is found out? Alternately, do you want a person for mayor who is ready and willing to support and stand behind a person who has been proven to be substandard and lackluster? What does that say for her judgement? Is it about Blackwell, or just a good opportunity for photo ops and sound bytes?
Maybe this will be the last article in the story of Jeffrey Blackwell’s time in Cincinnati. Maybe, but somehow, I doubt it.
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?
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